FEMA Administrator Brock Long on Sunday refused to correct President Donald Trump’s false conspiracy theory that Democrats fabricated thousands of Hurricane Maria-related deaths in Puerto Rico.
In an interview with Long, Fox News’ Chris Wallace asked the FEMA administrator a “simple, factual question: Do you dispute this number of 3,000 hurricane-related deaths?”
“There’s several different studies out there that are all over the place when it comes to death,” Long replied, before noting: “The official stance of FEMA is, one, we don’t count deaths.”
“The only thing that would come remotely close, the data that we would have, is the funeral benefits that we push forward.” (Lawmakers have pressed FEMA for clarity on this point— the agency has denied or not responded to the vast majority of requests for Maria-related funeral assistance.)
Brock Long won't correct Trump conspiracy on Hurricane-related deaths in Puerto Rico pic.twitter.com/AhhRuyx2cs
— TPM Livewire (@TPMLiveWire) September 16, 2018
In a separate interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Long said: “The numbers are all over the place.”
“[Trump] said Democrats did it to make him look bad,” “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd asked. “Do you believe any of these studies were done to make the President looked bad?”
“I don’t know know why the studies were done,” Long said, before noting the difference between direct and indirect hurricane deaths.
The administrator echoed that line on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” per a transcript of the show: “These studies are all over the place,” he said. “The Harvard study was done differently [and] studies a different period of time versus the George Washington study. There’s a big discrepancy whether it’s direct deaths or indirect deaths.”
Researchers at George Washington University, in a study commissioned by Puerto Rico’s governor, determined last year’s hurricane to have caused roughly 3,000 excess deaths.
Trump has falsely claimed, without evidence, that the number is the result a politically-motivated calculation, pointing to official death toll numbers after the hurricane that were lower (though many argued at the time that the first official numbers were far too low).
“There’s a lot of issues with numbers being all over the place,” Long added on Fox News Sunday. “It’s hard to tell what’s accurate and what’s not.”
Trump nominated Long to lead FEMA in April last year. Long led the Alabama Emergency Management Agency from 2008 to 2011, after which he worked for Evanston, Illinois Mayor Steve Hagerty’s consulting firm. He’s currently under investigation for his excessive use of government cars and drivers, among other things.