Stephen Colbert fact-checks Trump's Puerto Rico hurricane comments

As happens often, congressional Republicans were blindsided Thursday morning by a tweet, as President Donald Trump challenged without evidence the official conclusion that almost 3,000 people died in Puerto Rico from last year's Hurricane Maria. A US territory since 1898, Puerto Rico's inhabitants are citizens, though they can not vote in presidential elections and have only one congressional representative with limited voting powers. Following the 2017 hurricane, thousands of Puerto Ricans were estimated to have moved to the state. "But I don't agree with a lot of stuff that he says about us". Gov. Ricardo Rossello told CBS New York on Thursday that he was a Democrat but stressed that the government sought the study and said it "tried to make this process a completely independent process".

Privately, some White House officials were exasperated with the president's focus on Puerto Rico at a time when Hurricane Florence is bearing down on the Carolinas and other coastal areas. "The loss of any life is tragic". "I'll continue to help PR".

DeSantis' statement did not mention Trump by name, but his campaign's decision to come out against the President's view was particularly noteworthy given the candidate openly courted Trump during his primary campaign and has commended him countless times. President Trump was "disrespectful", he said, to dismiss the government's assessment that 2,975 people died as a result of last year's hurricane and its aftermath.

That number was produced by public health experts at George Washington University in Washington, DC, in a report commissioned by the United States territory's governor, Ricardo Rossello.

It's all part of the political fallout of Trump's Thursday tweets that blamed "bad politics" and Democrats for making up a report that inflated the number of people who died in Puerto Rico in an effort "to make me look as bad as possible". As time went by it did not go up by much.

Al Jazeera's Kimberly Halkett reports.

'If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list. "Bad politics", he wrote.

Trump has rejected that death toll.

"President Trump has been laser focused on hurricane response this week - just not this one", Colbert said in his monologue as Hurricane Florence began to touch down on the coasts of North Carolina and SC on Thursday night.

For Meyers, the tweets were more proof that POTUS is legitimately insane and described Trump's explanation as a "conspiracy theory".

Trump maintained as recently as Tuesday that his response to the storm was an "incredible unsung success". "If you want people to take your message seriously maybe have higher production value like a mid-level YouTube star".

Many on the island disagree with that assessment, and the lackluster response was recently exemplified by a stockpile of water bottles sitting - unused - on a runway in Ceiba, a town on the island's east coast.

"This is what denial following neglect looks like: Mr Pres in the real world people died on your watch".

Vanessa Coleman