Fox Business host Lou Dobbs sided with President Donald Trump in his criticism over Puerto Rico’s updated death toll from Hurricane Maria — going after Florida Republican political candidates in tight races in the process — the Tampa Bay Times noted.
Trump raised the ire of Florida governor, and current U.S. Senate candidate, Rick Scott — as well as potential replacement Ron DeSantis — when he dismissed revised numbers from a study stating that nearly 3,000 died in Puerto Rico as a result of the hurricane. This number is in stark contrast to the previously stated death toll of 64.
George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health was commissioned by the Puerto Rican government to conduct the study in an effort to get a more accurate count of those affected by the storm. The hurricane heavily damaged the island last September.
But Trump bashed the study’s figure of 2,975, charging on social media that the number was made up by Democrats to hurt him.
3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico. When I left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths. As time went by it did not go up by much. Then, a long time later, they started to report really large numbers, like 3000...— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 13, 2018
.....This was done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible when I was successfully raising Billions of Dollars to help rebuild Puerto Rico. If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list. Bad politics. I love Puerto Rico!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 13, 2018
Trump’s commentary brought denunciations from Scott and DeSantis, among others. Both men have defended the president in the past, but notably parted ways on these comments pertaining to the Puerto Rican incident and the death toll attendant. Scott pushed back on Twitter, while DeSantis did so in a statement that was released on social media.
I disagree with @POTUS– an independent study said thousands were lost and Gov. Rosselló agreed. 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— Rick Scott (@ScottforFlorida) September 13, 2018
In a statement, @RonDeSantisFL disagrees with Trump: "Ron DeSantis is committed to standing with the Puerto Rican community, especially after such a tragic loss of life. He doesn’t believe any loss of life has been inflated."— Emily L. Mahoney (@mahoneysthename) September 13, 2018
Those comments, though, led Lou Dobbs to take a shot at both Republican politicians, noted the Tampa Bay Times.
#FakeNews- The Hurricane Maria death tolls have been inflated & President @realDonaldTrump was right to call out organizations who threw out science and statistics to try to discredit his administration. #MAGA #TrumpTrain #Dobbs pic.twitter.com/xXjF3dfgcH— Lou Dobbs (@LouDobbs) September 14, 2018
“Why did two Florida Republicans locked in tight races distance themselves today from the president on this issue?” Dobbs said on his Fox Business show. “Obviously the two men don’t care that the numbers aren’t related to facts, nor do they care how those numbers were arrived at.”
“The numbers were inflated and the president was right to call out the organizations who threw out science, statistics and evidence to discredit the Trump administration,” Dobbs continued.
Trump liked Dobbs comments enough to retweet the video, per The Hill newspaper, which had gathered 1.24 million views as of Friday afternoon.
The Milken Institute School of Public Health issued its own statement Thursday, standing by its results and charging that it is the only independent study done on the Puerto Rican death toll as a result of Hurricane Maria. The study utilized a mathematical predictive model rather than relying on certified medical records accounting for individual fatalities.
“Researchers at the Milken Institute SPH in collaboration with scientists at the University of Puerto Rico Graduate School of Public Health analyzed mortality, via use of death certificates and related information, from September 2017 through the end of February 2018,” the statement said.
“Using a state-of-the-art mathematical model, the team compared the total number of deaths during that time to the expected number based on historical patterns as well as age, sex, socioeconomic status and migration from the island… We are confident that the number — 2,975 — is the most accurate and unbiased estimate of excess mortality to date,” the school continued.