Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) slammed President Donald Trump’s tweet earlier in the day, which falsely claimed the death toll of 3,000 in last year’s Puerto Rico hurricane was a fake number concocted by the Democrats, calling it “incredibly disheartening.”
Bush, who lost to Trump in the GOP presidential primary in 2016, was the latest Florida Republican political figure Thursday to distance himself from Trump’s startling tweet. The president’s statement was denounced by former Florida Rep. Ron DeSantis, who’s running for governor, and current Gov. Rick Scott, who’s running for Senate, ahead of midterm elections in a state where the Puerto Rican community (an estimated 1.1 million people) wields significant clout.
“Mr. President, SHUT UP,” tweeted Alan Levine, a Republican appointed by Scott to Florida’s university governing board.
Bush made his comment shortly before White House spokesman Hogan Gidley defended Trump in a statement to CNN.
“President Trump was responding to the liberal media and the San Juan mayor who sadly have tried to exploit the devastation by pushing out a constant stream of misinformation and false accusations,” Gidley said.
The 3,000 estimate comes from a George Washington University scientific analysis that included “excess deaths” attributed to the lingering effects of Hurricane Maria. Trump offered no evidence that the Democrats cooked up the number.
The head of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus on Thursday angrily turned down Trump’s invitation to a reception to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month beginning Sept. 15. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-N.M.), who is running for governor in New Mexico, told Trump in a letter that he “demonized and dehumanized the Hispanic community and spread fear and untruths.”
She added: “You have ignored and recently tweeted lies about the devastation and loss of life in Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria, compared immigration to an infestation, and attacked a judge because of his Hispanic heritage. That rhetoric is not only unbecoming of the President of the United States; it has no place in American political discourse.”