DeSantis breaks with Trump over claim that Puerto Rico death toll was inflated

DeSantis breaks with Trump over claim that Puerto Rico death toll was inflated
© Greg Nash

Florida GOP gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantisRonald Dion DeSantisFlorida secretary of state who resigned apologizes for blackface photos The Hill's Morning Report — Trump complicates border wall negotiations Parkland parents ask Pulitzer panel to honor local paper for school shooting coverage MORE broke with President TrumpDonald John TrumpRosenstein expected to leave DOJ next month: reports Allies wary of Shanahan's assurances with looming presence of Trump States file lawsuit seeking to block Trump's national emergency declaration MORE over the death count from the hurricanes in Puerto Rico last year.

DeSantis, who stepped down from his House seat earlier this week, does not believe “any loss of life has been inflated,” according to his campaign.

"Ron DeSantis is committed to standing with the Puerto Rican community, especially after such a tragic loss of life,” DeSantis’s campaign said in a statement, according to multiple reports. “He doesn’t believe any loss of life has been inflated."

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The president in a pair of tweets earlier Thursday disputed widely accepted findings that the death count in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria was close to 3,000, rather than the original 64.

Without evidence, Trump accused Democrats of falsely inflating the death toll as a political move.

"3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico,” Trump tweeted. “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."

“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,” he added. “If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list.”

The tweet sparked a wave of backlash among both Democrats and Republicans, including Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R), who said he disagrees with Trump and called the loss of life “heart wrenching.”

Trump has endorsed DeSantis in the Florida race, and spoke at a campaign rally for him ahead of the state's primary earlier this summer.