Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora expressed frustration Thursday when asked about President Donald Trump downplaying the number of people who died in the aftermath of a hurricane that devastated Puerto Rico one year ago, calling the president’s tweets “disrespectful.”
As Hurricane Florence approached the Carolinas on Thursday morning, Trump disputed the official conclusion that nearly 3,000 people died in Puerto Rico because of Hurricane Maria last year, claiming the figure was a Democratic plot to make him look bad.
“When I left the Island, after the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths,” Trump tweeted. “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.”
Earlier this month, the governor of Puerto Rico raised the death toll to 2,975 from 64 following a study conducted by researchers from the Milken Institute at George Washington University at the government’s request.
“To be tweeting about 3,000 people … it’s actually disrespectful for my country,” said Cora, a former player from Caguas, about 20 miles south of San Juan. “We see it that way. I know probably he doesn’t feel that way. And like I said, hey man, thank you for helping us. He went down there, he did what he did.
“I hate talking about politics and all that, but I think this is more than politics. This is about a country that really suffered, we still … you see the hurricanes forming now. Everybody’s panicking. It’s not easy. One thing’s for sure, and I told (the media) before, one thing I’m proud, we’re standing up on our own two feet. Like, do we need help? Yeah, we do. We know that.”
In January, Cora led a Red Sox delegation to Puerto Rico to distribute aid. He joined team president Sam Kennedy and players Chris Sale, Rick Porcello and Christian Vazquez to hand out medical supplies, water filtration systems and food and water. Cora had first-hand knowledge of the storm. His family, including twin boys born 14 months ago, was on the island when Hurricane Maria hit in September.
“I hate that people make it a political issue,” Cora said before Thursday night’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays. “This is about human beings. The people that went through this, they know what happened.”
In the wake of the media reporting on Trump’s tweet, George Washington University released a statement saying it stood by the science in the study.
“Our results show that Hurricane Maria was a very deadly storm, one that affected the entire island but hit the poor and the elderly the hardest,” the statement read. “We are confident that the number — 2,975 — is the most accurate and unbiased estimate of excess mortality to date.”
Cora indicated that the Puerto Rican people are continuing their efforts to a return to normalcy.
“We’re not where we were. But we will be there, and it’s just a matter of time,” Cora said. “But you know it’s a little bit kind of like frustrating that the topic keeps coming and coming and coming. What’s the point, honestly? And I respect him. He’s the president of the United States. But I don’t agree with a lot of stuff that he says about us.”
In April, two Major League Baseball games between the Cleveland Indians and Minnesota Twins were played in San Juan and aired nationally, with major leaguers hailing from the island leading efforts to assist their homeland in its recovery from Maria.