Stories

Florida Republicans break with Trump on Puerto Rico claims

President Trump with Florida Gov. Rick Scott. Photo: NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images

Florida lawmakers are publicly disagreeing with President Trump's claim that the death toll in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria is not accurate.

Why it matters: With just 2 months before the election — and with an estimated 50,000–75,000 Puerto Ricans who may have permanently settled in Florida since the hurricane — they know they can't stay silent on an issue that affects a significant portion of Florida's electorate.

The big picture: Republicans Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis have never openly disagreed with Trump before. In fact, they've benefitted from his endorsements, and DeSantis even released an entire ad mirroring himself after Trump.

  • That doesn't mean they don't genuinely disagree with him now, but they're both in tough races and will rely on a new electorate, shaped by Hurricane Maria, to get elected — not on President Trump.

Battle lines: Gov. Rick Scott, who's running for Senate, tweeted: "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."

  • A spokesperson for Rep. Ron DeSantis, who's running for governor, told NBC's Ali Vitali that DeSantis "doesn’t believe any loss of life has been inflated," as POTUS claimed.
  • Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, who's facing a tough re-election race against Scott, tweeted: "The president’s comments on the nearly 3,000 American lives lost in Puerto Rico are shameful. We deserve and expect more from someone who holds the highest office in our country."

Go deeper: Politicians trash Trump's Hurricane Maria tweet