President Trump appears to be alone in his baseless assertion that Hurricane Maria's death toll was inflated "by the Democrats in order to make [him] look as bad as possible."
Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R), who is currently running for Senate and aligns with Trump on most issues, tweeted Thursday that the president is wrong in his claim — though he stopped short of offering pointed criticism of Trump for making it. Trump had suggested without evidence that the death toll in Puerto Rico was much lower than the roughly 3,000 an independent study had determined. Scott noted this and added that he saw the storm's destruction firsthand.
I disagree with @POTUS– an independent study said thousands were lost and Gov. Rosselló agreed. I've been to Puerto Rico 7 times & saw devastation firsthand. 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
— Rick Scott (@ScottforFlorida) September 13, 2018
Additionally, the Republican candidate for governor of Florida, Rep. Ron DeSantis, also backed away from Trump's theory. A spokesperson for DeSantis said Thursday that the lawmaker "doesn't believe any loss of life has been inflated," per NBC News reporter Hallie Jackson. This is particularly notable because DeSantis has otherwise established himself as being as passionate a supporter of the president as possible, as NBC News' Benjy Sarlin points out.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R) also tweeted that 3,000 Americans did, in fact, die in Puerto Rico. But rather than calling out the president more directly for making claims without evidence, Rubio lamented the fact that "these days even tragedy becomes political." Brendan Morrow