No, 3,000 People Didn’t Die in Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria

President Trump did it again: he managed to set off a firestorm by tweeting out what we may call an “alternative fact” to the whole Puerto Rico hurricane business.

Last year, when Hurricane Maria devastated the island, there was a lot of criticism of Trump’s handling of the crisis. Given the severity of the storm, which had just followed a previous hurricane, there was little more the federal government could have done to have prevent widespread damage. (RELATED: FEMA Director Brock Long Criticizes Media Coverage of Puerto Rico Relief Effort.) But Trump took the blame anyway.

Then, of course, Puerto Rico greatly mismanaged the crisis to such a degree that nobody questions it anymore. (RELATED: Trump Was Right About Puerto Rico’s Government Letting Down Hurricane Victims – These Pictures Prove It.) It’s so bad that to this very day, there are still supplies sent following the storm last year that lie dormant, unused.

This morning, as Hurricane Florence barrels toward the U.S.’s eastern coast, Trump took to Twitter to defend his performance on Puerto Rico. He also dropped some uncomfortable figures:

Trump is being blasted for these remarks, because he’s contradicting a recent study that alleges close to 3,000 people died as a result of the storm. The government of Puerto Rico recently “confirmed” the study. But that confirmation comes with a massive caveat: the number is based off of a computer model created by George Washington University researchers.

That’s right: a damn computer estimates there were 3,000 deaths in Puerto Rico. It’s not a body count. It’s a computer algorithm.

The GW study, to put it simply, compares expected deaths with actual deaths. Using a statistic called “excess morality estimation,” they used a specific formula to measures deaths from the storm. Here’s how that statistic is created, in part:

We estimate that in mid-September 2017 there were 3,327,917 inhabitants and in mid-February 2018 there were 3,048,173 inhabitants of Puerto Rico, representing a population reduction by approximately 8%. We factored this into the migration “displacement scenario” and compared it with a “census scenario,” which assumed no displacement from migration in the hurricane’s aftermath. We found that, historically, mortality slowly decreased until August 2017, and that rates increased for the period of September 2017 through February 2018, with the most dramatic increase shown in the displacement scenario accounting for post-hurricane migration.

Um, I’m not a data scientist, but that seems like a pretty broad way of measuring deaths from one specific event. Basically, the researchers are guessing that x number of people died from the storm by comparing how many people “normally” die and how many people “should have” died as a result of Maria.

Sorry, that’s not a death count. That’s a computer estimation that can’t be verified. In other words, it’s fake news.

Even Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello admits the number is only an estimate. Prior to the study’s release, only 64 deaths were attributed to Maria.

Ben Shapiro remarks on all of this, pointing out that news outlets such as CNN and the New York Times have varying estimates for Maria-caused deaths as well. One study from Harvard University actually estimated that between 793 and 8,498 people died as a result of the storm.

In other words, these estimates aren’t exactly trustful, given how disparate the numbers are.

So we have no idea what the death count is in Puerto Rico. Trump could be right; he could be wrong. There’s no need for all the media invective being thrown at him right now, especially given that the U.S. is bracing for another hurricane.

Senator Marco Rubio makes this point, along with a few more that, pardon the pun, dampen the media’s spur-of-the-moment passion about Puerto Rican citizens who died in the storm.

The media doesn’t know how many people died in Puerto Rico. So why are they blowing a gasket over Trump’s comments?

Because they want to make the President look bad, just as Trump said.

Jim E. is a true political insider, with experience working both in Washington and outside in real America. Jim... More about Jim E

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