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Trump Calls Hurricane Maria Death-count False
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Trump Calls Hurricane Maria Death-count False

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PUERTO RICO — September 14, 2018

Hurricane Maria, which hit Puerto Rico in September 2017, killed 2,975 people. This is the data of an independent study commissioned by the authorities of the island conducted by George Washington University (GWU). The sweeping report called "excess deaths". President Donald Trump called this information a lie and accused the Democrats of manipulating numbers.

In particular, Trump said that data had been inflated by Democrats to "make me look as bad as possible."

"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..." he said.

"This was done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible when I was successfully raising Billions of Dollars to help rebuild Puerto Rico. If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list. Bad politics. I love Puerto Rico!" he added.

According to Trump’s tweets, this is similar not only to criticism of Democrats as political opponents but also to the overall negative picture inside the White House.

Representative Ileana Ros Lehtinen, Republican of Florida, told reporters she believes the figure of nearly 3,000 is sound.

"What kind of mind twists that statistic into 'Oh, fake news is trying to hurt my image,'" she said. "How can you be so self-centered and try to distort the truth so much? It’s mind-boggling."

Florida Governor Rick Scott, a Republican whose Senate bid has been endorsed by Trump, said in a tweet that he totally disagreed with the president.

In a statement, Representative Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, the ranking Democrat on the Homeland Security Committee, called on Trump to "resign at once."

"The fact that the president will not take responsibility for his administration’s failures and will not even recognize that thousands have perished shows us, once again, that he is not fit to serve as our president," Thompson said.

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, who publicly pleaded with Trump for a stronger response to the storm, also blasted the president.

"President Trump's statement, questioning the deaths in Puerto Rico, shows a lack of respect for our reality and our pain," she said in a statement. "He simply is unable to grasp the human suffering that his neglect and lack of sensibility have caused us. 3000 people died on his watch and his inability to grasp that makes him dangerous."

During a news conference on Capitol Hill later Thursday morning, House Speaker Paul Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin, avoided directly criticizing Trump but said he had no reason to dispute the study’s findings.

"This was a function of a devastating storm hitting an isolated island, and that is really no one's fault," Ryan said. "The casualties mounted for a long time, and I have no reason to dispute those numbers."

Carlos Santos-Burgoa, the principal investigator of the GWU study and a professor in the Department of Global Health, said Friday afternoon that he and his colleagues were unbiased in their work and received no political pressure from Democrats or anyone else to come up with a high estimate of storm-related deaths.

"We stand by the science underlying our study. It is rigorous. It’s state of the art. We collected the data from the official sources. Everything can be validated," Santos-Burgoa said. ‘"We didn’t receive any pressure from anybody to go this way or that way. We wouldn’t do it. We are professionals of public health."

In addition to the basic statements, Trump added that he cannot state directly or draw conclusions regarding deaths during Hurricane Maria. Given the methodology, there was not an opportunity to misclassify someone who died from old age, as Trump suggested.

Rather, the GWU study looked at the number of deaths from September 2017 to February 2018 and compared that total to what would have been expected based on historical patterns. They factored in many variables, including the departure of hundreds of thousands of island residents in the aftermath of Maria.

A clear pattern emerged from the analysis: The mortality rate spiked in the months after the storm, particularly in the poorest areas of Puerto Rico, and among elderly males.

The unusually high death rate never completely reached the normal level even after six months, the researchers found — a sign of Puerto Rico’s continued struggle to deal with the effects of the hurricane.

Had the GWU researchers done what Trump claimed they did -- attributing any death to Maria -- the six-month death toll from the hurricane would have been 16,608.

Earlier this week, Trump hailed his administration’s response to Maria as "an incredible, unsung success."

It was "one of the best jobs that've ever been done with respect to what this is all about," Trump told reporters in the Oval Office as he was receiving a briefing on Hurricane Florence.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency itself has acknowledged that it was ill-prepared for the storm.

On the eve it was reported that FEMA concealed a massive stockpile of bottled water meant for victims of Hurricane Maria. The photo showing this fact was shared widely on social media Tuesday evening.

It cannot be ruled out that this time President Trump is right. After all, he did take into account the figures of total deaths in the period after the hurricane, referring to the period from September 2017 to February 2018. It's simple math. It turns out that on the one hand, the Democrats really are trying to slander the President, and on the other hand, it is also possible that they are onto something. For Trump, it is naturally beneficial if the numbers are smaller. Moreover, his statements were made immediately after his decision to send payments intended for FEMA to ICE instead. Trump's actions have even caused confusion and dismay among his supporters, especially given the fact that this time it was the United States which was hit by the Hurricane. It seems that the President has his priorities, and human lives for him are less important than immigration enforcement and his reputation.

Author: USA Really