As Hurricane Florence took aim at the Carolinas on Thursday, President Donald Trump took to Twitter to accuse Democrats of inflating the death toll on the island of Puerto Rico in a political bid to embarrass him, casting it as nothing more than an effort to question Trump Administration relief efforts to that U.S. territory.
"3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico," the President said in a tweet, saying the numbers were inflated for a specific reason.
"This was done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible," the President tweeted.
On Capitol Hill, the reaction was swift and direct - especially from Democrats.
"I have no reason to dispute those numbers," Speaker Paul Ryan said about the estimated death toll of close to 3,000, which was put together in a recent report commissioned by the government of Puerto Rico.
While the Speaker went on to say that politcs should not enter the equation, the President's assertion unleashed a storm of criticism from Democrats.
"You are not entitled to your own facts," said Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME), as Democrats unleashed a torrent of criticism at the President. "You cannot to erase the 3,000 Americans who died in Puerto Rico after last year’s hurricanes."
"A truly disgusting comment," said Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-PA) of the President's tweet. "These are our fellow Americans and fellow human beings. They and their families deserve better from their President."
"This is a direct result of your weak response, sad incompetence and utter neglect, Donald Trump," said House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.
"This is what deadly incompetence and failure look like," said Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA).
"You're right Mr. President," said Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ). "The hurricane didn't kill 3,000 people. Your botched response did."
Meanwhile, the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico - who tangled publicly with the President after Hurricane Maria - said the President was 'delusional' for rejecting the death toll estimate.
"Simply put: delusional, paranoid, and unhinged from any sense of reality," said Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz.
The death toll report, done by a research arm of George Washington University, and released jointly with the Governor of Puerto Rico, went through an extensive mortality study from the aftermath of the storm, in order to figure out a more accurate assessment of the damage.
The estimated 2,975 deaths on Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria would be far more than the over 1,800 attributed to Hurricane Katrina, which struck the U.S. Gulf Coast in 2005.
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