Donald Trump is pretty sensitive when it comes to the whole Puerto Rico issue because after all, the handling of the relief effort following Hurricane Maria was an unmitigated disaster.
As Hurricane Florence barrels down on the Carolina coastline, Trump is seemingly at pains to defend the Puerto Rico debacle in the interest of dispelling the notion that his response to the catastrophe was just as inadequate as nearly everyone says.
Late last month, researchers at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University released the results of a study commissioned by Puerto Rico.
The independent assessment sought to “accurately estimate the excess number of deaths due to Hurricane María” and as it turns out, the official death toll was just a bit off.
Specifically, the U.S. territory’s official count was 64 prior to the study and now, that official tally is 2,975.
You can read the entire report along with a recap of Trump’s “finer” moments in and around the disaster here, but for our purposes, just note that the President sought to defend his handling of the situation by telling reporters that despite the revised death toll, he did “a fantastic job in Puerto Rico.”
“I think most of the people in Puerto Rico really appreciate what we’ve done”, he said, in remarks delivered on August 29. Here’s the video:
Believe it or not, Trump doubled down on that earlier this week.
While speaking in the Oval Office about Hurricane Florence, Trump called the Puerto Rico effort “incredibly successful”, before immediately one-upping himself, contending that the response to Maria was “an unsung success” and “one of the best jobs that’s ever been done.”
Now I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking he couldn’t possibly say anything more egregious or out of touch with reality than that when it comes to Puerto Rico and hurricanes, and even if he could, he surely wouldn’t do it within hours of Florence making landfall in North Carolina.
Wrong. You were so wrong to think that.
Because here is what the President of the United States said on Thursday morning:
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.
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!
Got that? The George Washington University study was a Democratic hoax and a conspiracy and in fact, the difference between the “6-18” people confirmed dead when Trump showed up in Puerto Rico to throw paper towels at people and the actual death toll which stands at nearly 3,000, is at least partially due to people dying of “old age” between last October and this summer.
You can expect this to turn into an absolute PR debacle.
Let’s see what Sarah Huckabee Sanders comes up with to explain it away.