Trump disputes Milken research estimating 3,000 deaths after Hurricane Maria

Media Credit: Photo used under the Creative Commons license from Gage Skidmore

President Donald Trump, in a series of tweets Thursday, falsely claimed that research from the public health school estimating 3,000 deaths in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria was "done by the Democrats" to make him look bad.

President Donald Trump falsely claimed Thursday that research from the Milken Institute School of Public Health estimating 3,000 deaths in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria was “done by the Democrats” to “make me look as bad as possible.”

In a series of tweets Thursday morning, Trump said 3,000 people “did not die” after the hurricane, and that when he left the island after the storm hit, there were between six and 18 deaths. The Puerto Rican government updated the official death toll from 64 to 2,975 last month after Milken researchers released a highly anticipated report analyzing death certificates between September 2017, when the hurricane made landfall, and February 2018.

The Puerto Rican government commissioned the study in February.

“If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list,” Trump tweeted. “Bad politics. I love Puerto Rico!”

Milken researchers used a mathematical model to compare the number of deaths during the six months that followed the hurricane to the number of deaths historically tallied during the same period. They also accounted for displacement after the disaster.

Milken leaders responded to Trump’s claims in a Thursday press release, saying “we stand by the science underlying our study.”

“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,” the release states. “We are confident that the number – 2,975 – is the most accurate and unbiased estimate of excess mortality to date.”

Milken researchers continue to research the effects of Hurricane Maria and will follow up on the initial review with a more comprehensive analysis of the death toll in early 2019.

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