The president tweeted that falsehood on Thursday morning, as Hurricane Florence barreled toward the Carolina coast.
A study conducted by George Washington University last month found that 2,975 people in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands died as a result of last year’s massive storm. In the wake of that study, Puerto Rico’s government raised its official Hurricane Maria death toll to the same number; the territory’s official death count was previously only 64. Another study, published in May by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, put the death toll closer to 5,000.
Trump insists these numbers are fake and that the peer-reviewed research is politically motivated. On Thursday, he said the numbers were concocted “by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible.” It’s not the first time Trump has denied the severity of disaster in Puerto Rico. For over a year, he’s insisted that the federal government’s response has been getting “great marks.” That’s true: It’s been getting great marks from the president himself, and almost no one else.