President Donald Trump is still denying the new death count in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria last year, complaining to Geraldo Rivera on his new radio show that the 2,975 count is not explainable.
Trump was the first guest of Rivera’s new local radio show at WTAM Radio in Cleveland. The president angered Puerto Rican officials and even some Republicans earlier when he rejected an independent study done to count those who died in connection with the hurricane that ravaged the island last summer.
The Puerto Rican government commissioned George Washington University to do a study on the death toll after coming up with a figure of 64 deaths on their own.
Researchers from the university’s Milken Institute of School of Public Health, the University of Puerto Rico, and other local community leaders spent months going over death certificates, studying vital statistics data back seven years before the storm to compare mortality rates. They then followed up with health officials, funeral home directors, and others to help come up with their figures, per USA Today.
Despite the work to get at the heart of the death toll, Trump told Rivera in an interview that aired Monday that the new figure just isn’t true and he believed the original totals Puerto Rican officials came up with.
“After I left, it was 16 people that died,” Trump told Rivera about early death toll count. “The 16 people was then lifted a couple of months later to 64 and that was the official number. And then all of a sudden, I read a report, many, many months later — a long time later — that they did a report that 3,000 people died.
“And I was like, ‘Wait a minute, you went from 16 people to 64. We did a great job, and then you went from 64 to 3,000. How did that happen?’ And they couldn’t explain it. If you read that report, it’s not explainable,” Trump continued.
Despite’s Trump criticism, officials from Puerto Rico have accepted the school’s work as their new official death toll from the hurricane, making it one of the deadliest storms to hit the United States ever.
“Our results show that Hurricane Maria was a very deadly storm, one that affected the entire island but hit the poor and the elderly the hardest,” George Washington University said in a statement after Trump’s initial criticism earlier this month, per USA Today. “We are confident that the number – 2,975 – is the most accurate and unbiased estimate of excess mortality to date.”
During the interview with Rivera, Trump hailed the work his administration did in the aftermath of the hurricane and charged if there were any problems, it came from Puerto Rican officials, slamming his harshest critic San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz.
“She shouldn’t even be there; she doesn’t even know what she’s doing,” Trump said of Cruz. “She’s a totally incompetent person. Locally, they did a very, very poor job.”