Puerto Rico governor: It 'is a fact' that 2,975 residents died from Hurricane Maria

Puerto Rico governor: It 'is a fact' that 2,975 residents died from Hurricane Maria
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Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló on Thursday rebuked President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump rallies in Nevada amid Supreme Court flurry: 'We're gonna get Brett' Trump: 'Good news' that Obama is campaigning again Trump boosts Heller, hammers 'Wacky Jacky' opponent in Nevada MORE's allegation that Democrats inflated the death toll from Hurricane Maria to make him look bad.

"The victims and the people of Puerto Rico do not deserve to have their pain questioned," Rosselló said in a statement. "Puerto Rico suffered a terrible tragedy at the hands of Hurricane Maria, and we strongly denounce anyone who would use this disaster or question our suffering for political purposes."

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Rosselló, who has largely avoided public confrontations with Trump, directly challenged the president for asserting that "3000 people did not die" on the island as a result of Hurricane Maria.

"The hurricane took the lives of 2,975. This is a fact, and based on that fact, we adjusted the official death toll," Rosselló said, citing a government-commissioned study conducted by George Washington University. "It is not time to deny what happened, it is time to make sure that it does not happen again."

Trump's tweets on Thursday, in which he said Democrats increased the death toll to make him "look as bad as possible," prompted harsh and swift criticism from Democrats, Puerto Rican officials and even some Republicans.

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

The official death toll was raised last month by Puerto Rican officials after the George Washington University study concluded that the number of deaths resulting from the September 2017 storm was significantly higher than the initial tally of 64.