Following Trump’s Thursday morning tweet, Ocasio-Cortez shared her own family’s story — noting that her grandfather died in the aftermath of the storm.
“My own grandfather died in the aftermath of the storm. Uncounted. Thousands of Puerto Ricans have similar stories. They have lost children, friends, & family members. Instead of finger-pointing, INVEST in the Marshall Plan for Puerto Rico + just transition to renewable energy,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote on Twitter.
“3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico. When I left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths. As time went by it did not go up by much. Then, a long time later, they started to report really large numbers, like 3000…” Trump tweeted Thursday morning.
Trump’s denial about the official death toll comes after Puerto Rico’s governor formally raised the number of deaths from Hurricane Maria to an estimated 2,975 from 64 following a study conducted by researchers at The George Washington University. CNN’s reporting also reflects similar numbers to the updated count.
Both Republicans and Democrats broke with Trump’s remark, including House Speaker Paul Ryan who told reporters he has “no reason to dispute those numbers.”
“It was devastating. It was a horrible storm. I toured the entire island. It’s an isolated island that lost its infrastructure and power for a long time, you couldn’t get to people for a long time,” Ryan said.
After Trump received criticism for his comment, White House spokesman Hogan Gidley released a statement later Thursday that read: “As the President said, every death from Hurricane Maria is a horror. Before, during, and after the two massive hurricanes, the President directed the entire Administration to provide unprecedented support to Puerto Rico.”
“President Trump was responding to the liberal media and the San Juan Mayor who sadly, have tried to exploit the devastation by pushing out a constant stream of misinformation and false accusations,” the statement continued.
CNN’s Betsy Klein and Maegan Vazquez contributed to this report.