Donald Trump Slammed by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for Saying Hurricane Maria Response was ‘Unsung Success'

While speaking to reporters in the Oval Office Tuesday, President Donald Trump called the government's response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico last year an “incredible, unsung success.”

“I think Puerto Rico was incredibly successful,” Trump told reporters when asked what lessons learned from the natural disaster could be applied to Hurricane Florence that is set to hit the Carolinas in the coming days. The category four hurricane is barreling toward the east coast of the U.S. with wind speeds reaching up to 140 m.p.h.

“I think it was one of the best jobs that was ever done,” Trump said. “The job that FEMA and law enforcement did working along with the governor in Puerto Rico was tremendous. I think that Puerto Rico was an incredible, unsung success.”

A study published by George Washington University in late-August found that nearly 3,000 people died from hurricane-related deaths in the months following Maria. Official government estimates previously showed the death toll at just a fraction of that number with 64 deaths. Following the study, Puerto Rico's government raised the official death toll from 64 to an estimated 2,975.

Democratic Congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez swiftly responded to Trump's praise of his administration's handling of the recovery efforts, pointing out that some of her family members from the island-nation only had their electricity restored in the past few weeks.

"People are developing respiratory issues partly due to airborne fungal spores from lack of proper cleanup," Ocasio-Cortez said on Twitter. "The admin's response to Puerto Rico has been a disaster."

Puerto Rico's government claimed power restoration was finally complete in mid-August, about 11 months after Maria. Others living in more rural parts of the island have said they're still without power despite the government's claim of 100 percent restoration.

The prolonged period of time with no electricity was a main contributing factor to the high number of deaths, according to university researchers who conducted the study.

Maria's death toll surpassed that of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 by more than 1,000 people, but it didn't stop the president from saying his administration did “a fantastic job” a few weeks ago.

In an interview this week, San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz told Newsweek that “Puerto Rico is a stain for FEMA and Trump's reputation.” Cruz, a critic of Trump and Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló, said the people of Puerto Rico “will never erase from their memory images of Trump throwing paper towels to [hurricane survivors last October].”

"At the time, [Trump] said this was not a crisis, and the governor said nothing," Cruz told Newsweek. "The government in Puerto Rico set a plan to say that Trump 'has given us everything we asked for.' Well, I have news for Rosselló: His government did not ask for enough."