In the five days after the Puerto Rican government acknowledged that the death toll from Hurricane Maria was over 20 times higher than previously reported, cable news devoted scant coverage to the continuing problems in Puerto Rico’s ongoing recovery efforts.
On August 9, Puerto Rican officials acknowledged that the death toll from Hurricane Maria far exceeded the official count of 64 deaths. New numbers that were “quietly acknowledged in a report posted online” suggest that it is likely more than 1,400 people died in the aftermath of the hurricane. The initial 64 number referred to people whose death was “directly caused” by the storm, but it failed to include those who died due to indirect effects.
Despite the staggering numbers revealed in the report, cable news devoted scant attention to the news. Between August 9 and 13, all three networks combined discussed the revised Puerto Rican death toll number for less than 45 minutes. CNN spent the most time covering the report, devoting a total of about 30 minutes during the five-day period. MSNBC spent just over nine and a half minutes discussing the new death toll, while Fox News devoted less than three and a half minutes to the news.
Continuing a trend, the major Sunday news shows (State of the Union, Meet the Press, Face the Nation, This Week, and Fox News Sunday) completely ignored Puerto Rico in their coverage. It’s a sad state of affairs when a show like Meet the Press can find more than 20 minutes for an interview with former The Apprentice contestant Omarosa Manigault Newman but can’t find a single second to discuss Puerto Rico. Monday coverage fared no better, with MSNBC devoting only six seconds to the report while CNN and Fox News had already completely moved on.
Reporting in late July showed that almost 11 months after Hurricane Maria hit the island, there were still hundreds of Puerto Ricans living without electricity. And while hurricane season has officially begun again on the island, electricity remains to be fully restored from Hurricane Maria. Nearly a year after the hurricane hit Puerto Rico, cable news is still failing to fully report on the death and destruction it caused.