Trump FEMA chief: 'I don't know why the studies were done' on Maria deaths


Trump's FEMA administrator, Brock Long, shows he's more of a political hack than a public servant.

As Trump continues to deny the deaths of nearly 3,000 Americans due to Hurricane Maria, Trump's top emergency management official tried to defend Trump by questioning why Puerto Rican officials would study the death toll in the first place.

The Puerto Rican government's official estimated death toll from last year's hurricane now stands at 2,975 people, based on the most comprehensive study on the subject to date. This includes people who died during the storm's peak, as well as those who died as a direct result of the storm due to loss of power, water, medical care, and other crucial services.

But Trump has been lying about that carefully researched study, absurdly claiming that "3,000 people did not die" as a result of the hurricanes. He even said that the updated death toll is somehow a Democratic plot to make him look bad.

So when Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) administrator Brock Long appeared on "Meet the Press" Sunday to discuss the response to Hurricane Florence, host Chuck Todd also pressed him on Trump's lies about Puerto Rico.

"[Trump] said Democrats did it to make him look bad," Todd said. "Do you believe any of these studies were done to make the president look bad?"

Long stammered a bit, then replied, "I don't know why the studies were done."

Multiple studies have been conducted in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria to estimate the death toll from the storm. The latest study estimating 2,975 deaths was directly commissioned by the government of Puerto Rico and conducted by researchers at George Washington University.

Of course, it's very clear why these studies were done: to figure out how many people died as a direct result of Hurricane Maria.

It's shocking that the administrator of FEMA would suggest otherwise just to make Trump's conspiracy theories sound less ridiculous.

Earlier in the interview, Long also dissembled by telling Todd that "the numbers are all over the place" from the various death toll studies.

Long also went on a bizarre tangent speculating on which deaths researchers might consider hurricane-related.

"You might see more deaths indirectly occur as time goes on because people have heart attacks due to stress, they fall off their house trying to fix their roof, they die in car crashes because they went through an intersection where the stoplights weren’t working," Long said. "Spousal abuse goes through the roof. You can’t blame spousal abuse after a disaster on anybody."

Long made up these examples, which are not cited in the George Washington University study.

While the death toll estimated by different studies has varied, all credible research into the subject has concluded that the initial death estimate of 64 people was an extreme undercount, and that the real number was in the hundreds or thousands.

And none of the studies come anywhere close to confirming Trump's delusions: that the real death toll couldn't have been higher than the government's first lowball, inaccurate estimate of 64 people.

Long's performance demonstrates that the man in charge of keeping Americans safe during natural disasters is more interested in defending Trump than in learning why thousands of Americans died after Hurricane Maria — or in making sure such a tragedy never happens again.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.