Florida GOP candidate Ron DeSantis broke with President Donald Trump over the death count from the hurricanes in Puerto Rico last year, The Hill reported.
DeSantis, who stepped down from his House seat earlier this week, does not believe “any loss of life has been inflated,” according to his campaign.
“Ron DeSantis is committed to standing with the Puerto Rican community, especially after such a tragic loss of life,” DeSantis’s campaign said in a statement. “He doesn’t believe any loss of life has been inflated.”
Trump on Thursday disputed the widely accepted findings that the death count in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria was close to 3,000, rather than the original 64.
Without evidence, Trump accused Democrats of falsely inflating the death toll as a political move.
“3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico,” Trump tweeted. “When I left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths. As time went by it did not go up by much. Then, a long time later, they started to report really large numbers, like 3000.”
“This was done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible when I was successfully raising Billions of Dollars to help rebuild Puerto Rico,” he added. “If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list.”
The tweet sparked a wave of backlash among both Democrats and Republicans, including Florida Governor, Republican Rick Scott, who said he disagrees with Trump and called the loss of life “ heart-wrenching.”
Trump has endorsed DeSantis in the Florida race and spoke at a campaign rally for him ahead of the state’s primary earlier this summer.