Today, President Donald Trump lashed out on Twitter (big surprise) about a pretty horrific statistic. He disputed the fact that nearly 3,000 people died in Puerto Rico as a result of two hurricanes that hit the island. Instead, Trump claimed that only as many as 18 deaths occurred. People were naturally shocked by this; the government itself has estimated, in the wake of solid research, that about 2,975 people died in Puerto Rico because of the natural disaster and the destruction it created.
But Breitbart reporter Charlie Spiering felt it necessary to defend the president, because, well, he’s a Breitbart reporter. On Twitter he wrote the follow defense of Trump’s message:
He’s right. The 2,975 who died did not die “IN” the storm but in six month period AFTER the storm https://t.co/fNbEZ4hdes
— Charlie Spiering (@charliespiering) September 13, 2018
It may be galling to read such a bizarre tweet. But while Spiering is playing semantics as a way to defend Trump’s insane rationale, he does also admit that, actually, about 3,000 people did die after the hurricane.
This admission is important, because it helps explain how death tolls work. For instance, nearly 3,000 people died during the 9/11 attacks. But that toll should have at least another 1,000 added to it because that’s the number of people who died due to debris exposure. Similarly, while only two people died as a result of the explosion at Chernobyl, 47 of the about 100 firefighters who rushed to the scene died in the coming years due to radiation. (Not to mention the thousands of cancer-related deaths that occurred in the region following the disaster, which researchers have been unable to definitively track.)
Here’s a tweet that really puts Spiering’s analysis into perspective:
If you get in a car wreck and die from your injuries afterward, you still died in a car wreck. https://t.co/gepfryuhp9
— Kaitlan Collins (@kaitlancollins) September 13, 2018
Trump’s supporters are trying to run cover for the Puerto Rico death toll–which is especially heinous, given that Hurricane Florence is about to hit the East Coast. But their defense only helps get to an important fact: It’s not just the natural disasters that kill people, but the government’s inability to react to the aftermath.
People in Puerto Rico died because they didn’t have water or electricity for months as a result of the hurricane’s destruction. The island has been trying to rebuild, but the toll was so shockingly high because it received inadequate resources from its own government.