Trump stance on Puerto Rico death toll draws criticism on Capitol Hill

Nicholas Kamm  AFP  Getty Images

Nicholas Kamm AFP Getty Images

President Donald Trump has been "overly criticized" for his response to the deadly storm that struck Puerto Rico a year ago, but neither the president nor his critics should be politicizing the tragedy, Rep. Chris Stewart said.

"As time went by it did not go up by much", Trump wrote. "Then, a long time later, they started to report really large numbers, like 3,000".

Earlier this week, Trump called the response to Hurricane Maria an "unsung success". "We still - you see the hurricane swarming now [in the Carolinas], and everybody's panicking".

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) slammed Trump, saying it's shameful that he would try to make the deaths of almost 3,000 American citizens into "a story about himself and his political fortunes".

Santana's images appear to have been taken by drone, and he accompanied them saying, "Although you do not believe it ... nearly a million boxes of water that were never delivered to the people of PR, before the emergency of Hurricane Maria".

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who is running for the U.S. Senate in a state where many Puerto Ricans moved after the devastating hurricanes tweeted that he disagrees with the Trump and that "an independent study said thousands were lost and Gov. Rosselló agreed".

"And I gotta say, man, thank you for helping us".

One media outlet where Trump was not subjected to scathing criticism for his Hurricane Maria death toll denials, however, was Fox News, according to a report by ShareBlue.

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The president tweeted on Thursday as Hurricane Florence bore down on the Carolinas.

But the San Juan mayor Trump attacked, Carmen Yulin Cruz, told CNN the president's words added "insult to injury".

The mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico's capital, slammed Trump for the comments nearly immediately.

"The job that FEMA, and law enforcement and everybody did working along with the governor in Puerto Rico, I think was tremendous", Trump added.

A study conducted at George Washington University's Milken Institute School of Public Health found that 2,975 died in Puerto Rico, and the official number of deaths was revised from 64 by the Puerto Rican government. That's actually lower than the estimate published by Harvard researchers in the New England Journal of Medicine - 4,645 - but it still puts Maria's death toll on a par with 9/11, whose 17th anniversary we just commemorated.

Flattened homes on the island of Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria.

Puerto Rico's Governor Ricardo Rossello said "now is not the time to pass judgment; it is time to channel every effort to improve the lives of over 3 million Americans in Puerto Rico". Rep. Luis Gutierrez, whose parents were Puerto Rican immigrants, spoke on the House floor in front of a printout of the Puerto Rican flag, saying Trump is "delusional" and incapable or "empathy or basic human decency".

A photograph, taken Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018, of the stockpiled water in Ceiba, Puerto Rico.

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