A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Video: Trump on Hurricane Maria


In this week’s fact-checking video, CNN’s Jake Tapper dissects the president’s false tweets about the death toll in Puerto Rico due to Hurricane Maria.

President Donald Trump rejected Puerto Rico’s official estimate of 2,975 hurricane-related deaths, saying that “3,000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico,” putting the number at “anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths.” Puerto Rico initially estimated that there were 64 deaths caused by the hurricane, which hit the island in September 2017, but it has since accepted an independent estimate that there were 2,975 hurricane-related deaths over about six months.

In his tweets, the president went on to falsely claim that the estimate of nearly 3,000 deaths “was done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible.” In fact, the independent study was commissioned by Puerto Rico and done by researchers at George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health.

The study took into account the usual number of deaths that could be expected from September 2017 through February 2018, after the hurricane, and found there were an estimated 2,975 “excess” hurricane-related deaths. Researchers used what they called a “state-of-the-art mathematical model,” which Trump misrepresented — wrongly saying the study counted deaths “for any reason, like old age.”

This fact-checking video is based on our Sept. 13 story “Trump’s False Tweets on Hurricane Maria’s Death Toll,” and is part of a collaboration with CNN’s “State of the Union with Jake Tapper.” Previous videos can be found on our website.