Government officials react to President Trump denying Puerto Rico deaths

Trump denied recent study that concluded near 3,000 died from Hurricane Maria

(Alex Edelman- Pool/Getty Images)

In a tweet Thursday, President Donald Trump denied the recent study that concluded nearly 3,000 Puerto Ricans died from the effects of Hurricane Maria. An estimated 2,975 people died from the aftereffects of the storm, according to the study.


The study, which was conducted by the nonpartisan George Washington University, accounted for Puerto Ricans who succumbed to the stifling heat and other aftereffects of the storm and had not been previously counted in official figures. It was commissioned by Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló.

Trump said the study 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."

Government officials have responded critically to Trump's statements. See the local and national officials' responses below.

Florida officials

Florida Gov. Rick Scott tweeted "I disagree with @POTUS– an independent study said thousands were lost and Gov. Rosselló agreed. I've been to Puerto Rico 7 times & saw devastation firsthand. The loss of any life is tragic; the extent of lives lost as a result of Maria is heart wrenching. I'll continue to help PR"

Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson tweeted "The president's comments on the nearly 3,000 American lives lost in Puerto Rico ae shameful. We deserve and expect more from someone who holds the highest office in our country."

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio tweeted "These days even tragedy becomes political. 3k more Americans died in #PuertoRico after Hurricane than during comparable periods before. Both Fed & local gov made mistakes. We all need to stop the blame game & focus on recovery, helping those still hurting & fixing the mistakes."

Florida Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum tweeted "No death is partisan and our brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico deserved better from @realDonaldTrump before, during, and after the hurricane."

Florida Republican Gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis' spokesman Stephen Lawson said in a statement that DeSantis did not believe that any loss of life "had been inflated."

Democratic U.S. Rep. Darren Soto tweeted "Mr. President: we had nearly 3000 Americans die in Puerto Rico due to your slow, failed response to Hurricane Maria. And now you dance on their graves to disguise your tragic incompetence. America deserves better!"

National officials

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz tweeted "Mr Trump you can try and bully us with your tweets BUT WE KNOW OUR LIVES MATTER. You will never take away our self respect. Shame on you!" 

Cruz also spoke to CNN about Trump's comments. 

"In a humanitarian crisis, you should not be grading yourself. You should not be just having a parade of self-accolades. You should never be content with everything we did. I'm not content with everything I did, I should have done more. We should all have done more. The President continues to refuse to acknowledge his responsibility, and the problem is that if he didn't acknowledge it in Puerto Rico, God bless the people of South Carolina and the people of North Carolina," Cruz said.

House Speaker Paul Ryan said "Casualties don't make a person look bad. I was in Puerto Rico after the hurricane. It was devastated. This was a horrible storm. I toured the entire island and it's an isolated island that lost its infrastructure and its power for a very long time. You couldn't get to people for a long time because roads were washed out, power was gone. The casualties mounted for a very long time. So I have no reason to dispute those numbers." 

Connecticut Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal said "This claim is beyond ridiculous, it is an insult to the brave men and women who everyday provide medical care and other first responder aid to people in distressed situations. The toll is factually established. The death toll in Puerto Rico is abominable and abhorrent and it’s a lesson in our need to do better for fellow Americans in Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico is still a humanitarian crisis and America has failed to provide what is needed in Puerto Rico." 

South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said "I don’t know. I really don’t know the number of deaths but it is certainly more than sixteen, whatever the initial reports were. It’d be interesting to find out exactly what happened. Were the deaths result of the hurricane itself or inability to get food or water afterward -- I don’t know. It’s something I’d be interested in finding out."