FEMA chief on Puerto Rico death toll: 'It’s hard to tell what’s accurate and what’s not'

FEMA chief on Puerto Rico death toll: 'It’s hard to tell what’s accurate and what’s not'
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Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) head Brock Long said Sunday that it is "hard to tell what's accurate" regarding figures for Puerto Rico's death toll following last year's hurricanes.

Long said in an appearance on "Fox News Sunday" that there were "several different studies out there" that are "all over the place" when it comes to the island's death toll.

“There’s a lot of issues with numbers being all over the place," Long said. "It’s hard to tell what’s accurate and what’s not. But we have got to come together as a country to focus on the rebuilding of Puerto Rico.”

"And there is a difference between direct deaths and indirect deaths," he added.


Long's comments come days after President TrumpDonald TrumpSunday shows preview: House GOP removes Cheney from leadership position; CDC issues new guidance for fully vaccinated Americans Navajo Nation president on Arizona's new voting restrictions: An 'assault' on our rights The Memo: Lawmakers on edge after Greene's spat with Ocasio-Cortez MORE disputed an independent report commissioned by Puerto Rico's government that raised the death toll from last year's Hurricane Maria to 2,975.

In a controversial pair of tweets, the president said the number was inflated "by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible."

"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," Trump tweeted Thursday. "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."

The report's researchers issued a statement earlier last week standing by their study after Trump questioned the results.

Trump drew sharp criticism following the comments, including from some of his supporters.

Trump also sparked controversy last week for saying the federal response to the hurricanes in Puerto Rico was an “unsung success” despite the high death toll, which surpassed that of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

“Trump simply does not get it. Thus his neglect towards Puerto Rico cost about 3,000 lives. Unfortunately, it seems he will never get it,” San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz said on Twitter last week.

When asked Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” if he believes any of the studies were done to make Trump “look bad,” Long responded: "I don’t know why the studies were done.”

Long told Fox Trump has been "fully supportive of FEMA" in its hurricane response efforts. The agency is currently responding to hurricane response efforts in North Carolina as Tropical Storm Florence heads inland. 

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— This report was updated at 11:39 p.m.