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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You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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