FEMA Boss Backs Trump’s Puerto Rico Death Denials: “I Don’t Know Why the Studies Were Done.”

Brock Long makes a bizarre segue to “spousal abuse” to defend the president.

As Hurricane Florence continues to savage the Carolinas, FEMA Administrator Brock Long on Sunday defended the president in undermining academic studies tying thousands of deaths to last September’s hurricane in Puerto Rico. The studies were “all over the place,” said Long in an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “I don’t know why the studies were done.” 

A George Washington University study found that 2,975 people died as a result of Hurricane Maria—a number that Donald Trump has repeatedly denied on Twitter over the past week, characterizing the death toll as a conspiracy by “Democrats” to “make me look as bad as possible.”

Long explained, “What we’ve got to do is figure out why people die from direct deaths, which is the wind, the water and the waves, buildings collapsing.” He added that FEMA doesn’t count deaths, but relies on counts from local county coroners. “You might see more deaths indirectly occur as time goes on because people have heart attacks due to stress,” he said. “They fall off their house trying to fix their roof, they die in car crashes because they went through an intersection where the step lights weren’t working.”

Long also noted that “all kinds of studies” have found that “spousal abuse goes through the roof” after natural disasters. “You can’t blame spousal abuse after a disaster on anybody.”

Long also defended himself amid allegations that he misused federal vehicles in contravention of departmental rules. Long vowed to stay on in his role while a federal watchdog investigates. “I’m here to serve my country every day. That’s all I do,” he said. “And when it’s over, whenever it ends, I’m ready to go back home, love my family.”

The Trump Administration’s Puerto Rico denials are continuing in the devastating wake of Hurricane Florence, which has so far claimed at least 14 lives—a number officials expect to rise. 

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Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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