Democrats and the media have been pounding President Donald Trump over the past few days, as Hurricane Florence nears the Carolinas, over his alleged insensitivity to deaths in Puerto Rico last year from Hurricane Maria.
On Thursday morning, President Trump pushed back on Twitter, alleging that Democrats had inflated the death toll “in order to make me look as bad as possible.”
That led to more criticism, with the Associated Press accusing Trump of making claims “without evidence.”
But Trump is correct.
His opponents — including the media — have strained for more than a year to turn Hurricane Maria into his version of Hurricane Katrina, the devastating 2005 storm that prompted criticism of President George W. Bush’s response — even though state and local authorities had been far worse — and foreshadowed a Democratic takeover of Congress in 2006.
Leading the charge was CNN, which made a special effort to link Hurricane Maria in 2017 to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and made a temporary media sensation of San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, who accused the Trump administration of neglect.
However, the media’s effort at the time was frustrated by several factors. First, experts praised the federal government’s response to Hurricane Maria, which posed special challenges because Puerto Rico is so far from the mainland U.S.
Second, Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló himself praised the federal government’s response: ““The president and the administration, every time we’ve asked them to execute, they’ve executed quickly,” he told Fox News in September 2017.
Third, Puerto Rico was already something of a disaster before the hurricane hit, thanks to mismanagement by the territory’s government that led to a debt crisis in recent years. (Mayor Cruz herself is reportedly under FBI investigation for corruption.)
However, Trump’s critics did not give up. Over the past several months, they have attempted to cite several new studies that created new estimates of the “real” death toll of Hurricane Maria — based on statistical models, not on actual death counts.