First things first: this post isn’t meant to excuse the tweets President Trump issued this morning when he questioned the official death toll in Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria and claimed Democrats had inflated the number in order to make him “look as bad as possible.” Maybe they did, but he must have known he be hammered by the media for not providing any proof. Some things would be better saved for an official statement.

He might very well have a point about the numbers, though. Back in June, Trump’s critics slammed him for not doing more for Puerto Rico when a Harvard study set the death toll at 4,645. Remember this?

Even Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler got in on the act and said that going by Harvard’s methodology, “the actual excess death count could be as low as 793 and as high as 8,498.”

As Twitchy reported, researchers took one number — 15 deaths identified from a survey of 3,299 households — and extrapolated that to come up with 4,645 deaths across the island. That’s pretty sketchy. But that was enough for Sally Kohn to claim more than 5,000 had died.

NBC News has been tweeting about Trump’s tweets today and finds that George Washington University, which was commissioned by Puerto Rico to come up with a death toll, is standing by its research and its death toll of 2,975.

That covers the headlines, at least.

Like we said: the same people who freaked out over the 4,645 number are freaking out again over the 2,975 number.

Maybe Chuck Todd can do the math and explain it all for us.

Again, we’re not defending Trump’s tweets, but it should be noted that we’re looking at two studies by two different universities, each of which came up with a drastically different number.

In other words, no one really knows — shouldn’t the Puerto Rican government be able to account for its citizens?

In any case, the mayor of San Juan really needs to have a new hat made up. The old one’s wrong.


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