By Glenn Fleishman
September 11, 2018

In advance of Hurricane Florence’s potentially devastating impact on the American Southeast, President Donald Trump called his administration’s response in Puerto Rico to Hurricane Maria in an “incredible, unsung success.” Last week, officials in Puerto Rico revised the death toll upward from 64 to 2,975 people. Independent estimates place the number at 1,270 and 5,740. The storm of one year ago caused over $100 billion in damage, the electrical grid remains fragile, and some rural residents still lack power.

Trump also said, “I actually think it was one of the best jobs that’s ever been done with respect to what this is all about.” The administration has been accused of a lackluster response and a failure to meet requests by local officials as well as Congress. Trump in particular has been called out for his apparent lack of empathy.

Ten days after the hurricane hit, Trump accused Puerto Ricans of a failure to work hard enough to dig out. “They want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort,” he tweeted. He criticized the hurricane’s impact on the budget while visiting the island, the residents of which are American citizens. He also early and regularly trumpeted the initial report of deaths.

Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), wrote on Twitter, “This is an offensive, hurtful and blatantly false comment from the president.”

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, an upset victor in a New York City Democratic primary, responded on Twitter to the president’s remarks, called the disaster response itself a “disaster.” “People are developing respiratory issues partly due to airborne fungal spores from lack of proper cleanup,” she wrote.

Trump’s remarks came during a briefing in the Oval Office for reporters that included the head of Department of Homeland Security and FEMA.

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