Merkley, Wyden Join Over 130 Lawmakers to Condemn Trump Remarks on Hurricane Death Toll in Puerto Rico


Text of the Letter (PDF)


Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, along with 13 of their Senate colleagues and 116 of their House colleagues, today sent a letter to President Trump denouncing his recent statements about the fatalities in Puerto Rico from Hurricanes Irma and Maria and their aftermath. 

The lawmakers’ letter, which comes nearly one year since Hurricane Maria’s landfall in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, calls on President Trump to immediately apologize and set the record straight by publicly acknowledging the official death toll. The letter was led by United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Representative Nydia M. Velázquez (D-N.Y.).

Puerto Rico’s official death toll currently stands at 2,975 and is based on a months-long study commissioned by the Government of Puerto Rico and carried out by researchers at George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health.  This figure is consistent with other credible estimates, including a study by researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Carlos Albizu University in Puerto Rico, and the University of Colorado School of Medicine.

In their letter to the President, the lawmakers strongly condemned President Trump’s tweets about the death toll in which he claimed that “3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico” and suggested that the death toll was inflated by Democrats in order to smear him politically.

“These comments were grossly inaccurate, callous, embarrassing and beneath the dignity of the Office of the President of the United States,” the lawmakers wrote. “…(Y)ou sought to distort the truth and, in doing so, gravely insulted the mourning families of the thousands of American citizens who died from Maria and the storm’s aftermath.”

The lawmakers also rejected the President’s remarks as a deliberate attempt to deflect blame from his Administration’s response to Hurricane Maria. “The lost lives of U.S. citizens are no political stunt, and this is not a partisan matter,” the lawmakers continued.  “In fact, one could easily surmise that your comment is a blatant effort to politicize this national tragedy to distract, divide and deflect blame from how the federal government responded to the hurricane.”

The lawmakers called on President Trump to swiftly apologize for his statements about the death toll, to improve his efforts to aid Puerto Rico in its recovery, and to ensure his Administration provides an effective response to Hurricane Florence.

In addition to Merkley, Wyden, and Warren, the letter was signed by Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), and Patty Murray (D-Wash.).