Puerto Rico Matters More

Estimates that more than 4,600 people died after Hurricane Maria demand attention.

By John Nichols The Nation

A road in the Roseau area is littered with structural debris, damaged vegetation and downed power poles and lines. By Roosevelt Skerrit • CC0


I have written enough books about how media cover politics to know that the story of a racist celebrity losing a TV show, like that of a racist president’s response to the cancellation of the show he once told supporters was “about us,” was going to trump the story about the dramatic loss of life on the island of Puerto Rico.

But that does not change the fact that the news of the actual death toll on the islands after they were hit by Hurricane Maria matters more. It matters more than Roseanne Barr’s self-inflicted wounds, and it matters more than Donald Trump’s self-absorbed interpretation of the news.

I’m not in the camp that says we should be unconcerned with entertainment-industry meltdowns or presidential tweets. We have to cover it all; and we have to look for the meaning in it all—for those revelations of awful truth that are found at the intersection of Roseanne’s downfall and The Donald’s delusional response to it (a tweet griping that former White House aide Valerie Jarrett got an apology from ABC while he did not).

What we must be very conscious of, however, is that the incredibly high-profile Roseanne Barr fiasco unfolded as we were learning that—while the “official” line had until this week suggested that Hurricane Maria killed 64 Puerto Ricans—a Harvard University study now estimates that more than 4,600 people died during and after this natural disaster.

According to the Harvard study, Puerto Rico experienced a 60 percent increase in mortality in the months following last fall’s devastating storms. More than 30 percent of the deaths were linked to the inaccessibility of medical care following power cuts and a breakdown in transportation links.

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