ANALYSIS — President Donald Trump, just one day after even Republicans criticized him for claiming nearly 3,000 people did not die last year in Puerto Rico due to two powerful hurricanes, shared a FEMA tweet warning against spreading false information.
Trump ended Thursday evening — as Hurricane Florence began bearing down on the North Carolina coast — by slamming former Secretary of State John Kerry, the longtime senator and failed 2004 Democratic presidential nominee who might be eyeing a 2020 run. He started Friday — with Florence dumping rainfall measured in feet as it made landfall in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina — with a series of tweets urging people in the storm’s path to take steps to remain safe.
John Kerry had illegal meetings with the very hostile Iranian Regime, which can only serve to undercut our great work to the detriment of the American people. He told them to wait out the Trump Administration! Was he registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act? BAD!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 14, 2018
A number of the president’s Friday morning posts amounted to a running public service announcement in the form of tweets and retweets that repeated on a loop. Amid them was a retweet of a FEMA post noting the agency has set up a “rumor control page” on its website.
“During disasters, it’s critical to avoid spreading false information,” FEMA wrote.
Trump sharing that message is nothing but ironic, given how fast and loose he is with truth and facts.
We have created a rumor control page for Hurricane #Florence that will be updated regularly. During disasters, it’s critical to avoid spreading false information. Always check with official sources before sharing. https://t.co/PAjGQZJ1Nt pic.twitter.com/z4L0r1YjAT— FEMA (@fema) September 12, 2018
As of Aug. 1, he had made 4,229 “Trumpian claims,” according to The Washington Post’s Fact Checker staff. In June and July alone, he uttered 978. Overall, the newspaper concluded he had made nearly eight questionable claims per day as of Aug. 1.
At a campaign rally last week, 68 percent of the 88 factual claims uttered by Trump were deemed by the Fact Checker staff to be, as they wrote, “false, misleading or unsupported by evidence.”
And just Thursday, Trump accused Puerto Rican officials and Democrats of lying about how many people died there in a coordinated effort to make him look bad after Hurricanes Maria and Irma pummeled the U.S. island territory. He accused them of artificially driving up the toll by adding deaths due to “any reason, like old age,” contending “they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths” when he left after a post-storm visit. He wrote bluntly his view that “3000 people did not die.”
In the past, Republican lawmakers and other GOP officials have defended the president or tried to tamp down controversies spawned by his false or misleading statements. That was not the case Thursday, however.
“I disagree with @POTUS– an independent study said thousands were lost,” Florida Gov. Rick Scott, the GOP nominee who is taking on Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, tweeted Thursday. “The loss of any life is tragic; the extent of lives lost as a result of Maria is heart wrenching. I'll continue to help PR.”
Scott echoed Speaker Paul D. Ryan, who earlier in the day said he trusts the official death toll figures. Trump has praised Scott in the past; so far, he has not responded to the governor’s tweet.
“You couldn’t get to people for a long time on the island because roads were washed out, power was gone and the casualties mounted for a long time,” Ryan said when asked about Trump’s tweet. “So I have no reason to dispute those numbers. Those are just the facts of what happens when a horrible hurricane hits an isolated place like an island.”
When Republicans break with Trump, it is typically a sign that a statement is false. That was the case Thursday, and it only added to the irony of the Friday retweet.
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