As Puerto Rico continues to struggle to recover from the devastating effects of Hurricane Maria, at least one Pennsylvania congressman thinks reports of American citizens struggling and dying on the island is "fake news."
Rep. Scott Perry, a Republican who represents Pennsylvania's Fourth District, centered on York, had a tense face-off Thursday morning with CNN's Chris Cuomo after the host pointed out that fewer than half of the island's more than 3.4 million residents have access to fresh water, power, and food.
"Mr. Cuomo, you're simply just making this stuff up. You're making it up," Perry shot back. "If half the country didn't have food or water, those people would be dying. And they're not." (Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, not a country.)
Perry told Cuomo that what's happening in Puerto Rico is a "success story." Three weeks after Maria made landfall, FEMA reports that 83 percent of residents were still without power as of Thursday afternoon. And while 64 percent reportedly have access to potable water, multiple reports indicate much of that water has been contaminated due to ruptures along pipelines.
"Right now, we recommend that all water be used for drinking, brushing teeth, cooking, or washing dishes be boiled," Puerto Rico's EPA director Carmen Guerrero told the San Juan newspaper el Nuevo Dia.
The official government death toll from the hurricane has risen in recent days to 45, while Vox dug into various media reports to estimate that the toll could end up rising well into the hundreds. And reporters on the ground indicate many hospitals are short on medicine and still running on generators, leading Cuomo to get defensive about the charge his network was making up news to make President Trump look bad.
"What is enough?" an angry Perry shouted at Cuomo. "What is enough? Having the power on the next day?"
"Having them not starve on the hillside," Cuomo shot back.
"Have you ever done any recovery operations, Mr. Cuomo?"
"I'm a journalist," Cuomo responded. "It's your job to make sure these things happen, and it's my job to check your efforts."
Watch the full 10-minute exchange here:
The heated discussion comes after President Trump appeared to criticize Puerto Rico in a series of tweets where he referenced the territory's looming "financial crisis" and questioned how long he would keep FEMA and first responders working there.
Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello, who has publicly given credit to Trump in the past, responded by saying the island was only seeking the type of support "any of our fellow citizens would receive across our nation."