Florida Republicans on Thursday flatly rejected President Trump’s claims that “Democrats” overestimated the number of Puerto Ricans killed by Hurricane Maria for partisan gain.
“I disagree with @POTUS– an independent study said thousands were lost and Gov. Rosselló agreed,” Gov. Rick Scott, who is running for Senate, said in a tweet. “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”
Rep. Ron DeSantis, the GOP gubernatorial nominee, released a less strongly worded statement outlining his commitment to “standing with the Puerto Rican community.”
But it pointedly noted that DeSantis “doesn’t believe any loss of life has been inflated.”
Trump’s baseless allegations came in a string of Thursday tweets rejecting the official tally that found the catastrophic storm resulted in almost 3,000 deaths. That number includes both immediate deaths from drowning, as well as those caused by illness, an extended loss of electricity and other byproducts of the hurricane’s chaotic aftermath. According to Trump, the high number “was done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible.”
“If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list,” Trump said, citing no evidence. “Bad politics.”
Trump has been on a rampage of self-congratulation in the days leading up to the one-year anniversary of Maria’s landfall on the island.
His comments create a rather awkward situation for Florida’s Republican candidates, who are eager to earn support from the state’s growing Puerto Rican population, which surged in the months after Maria.
In a tweet, Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum criticized the President for politicizing a tragedy.
“No death is partisan and our brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico deserved better from @realDonaldTrump before, during, and after the hurricane,” Gillum wrote.