As millions of residents of the Southeast coast of the United States prepared on Thursday for Hurricane Matthew, the conservative political commentator Matt Drudge suggested in a tweet that the Obama administration was deliberately over-hyping the threat of Hurricane Matthew to make “an exaggerated point on climate [change].”
“The deplorables are starting to wonder if government has been lying to them about Hurricane Matthew’s intensity to make exaggerated point on climate,” Drudge tweeted at 9:01 p.m. on October 6, 2016.
Writing on his website, The Drudge Report, the conservative pundit claimed that Hurricane Matthew had “fizzled.” But several media commentaries noted that the Miami Herald report Drudge linked to did not suggest that the storm had “fizzled out.”
Critics argued that Drudge’s insistence that the storm had “fizzled out” suggested, preposterously, that meteorologists issuing strident warnings that the hurricane could be the worst to hit the U.S. in decades were part of a “liberal conspiracy” to exploit Hurricane Matthew for political gain.
But in a subsequent tweet, Drudge had accused the Hurricane Center of monopolizing data and leaving reporters with no way of verifying the official claims about the intensity of the storm and its potential impact on populations being urged to evacuate.
Drudge’s tweet sparked a brief angry exchange between a Twitter user attempting to debunk his “conspiracy theory” suggestion, and another who tried to defend Drudge.
Several other Twitter users criticized Drudge’s tweet, disparaging it as a “dangerous conspiracy theory” because it could hamper the efforts of government officials to convince people to evacuate.
Vox, for instance, complained that Drudge’s “conspiracy theory-mongering” was dangerous because officials were already facing significant challenges convincing people to take warnings to evacuate seriously.
“Matt Drudge just made [efforts to convince people to evacuate] a lot harder with a suggestion that the warnings are part of a left-wing conspiracy to convince Florida residents that climate change is real,” the website commented.
But some residents of the Southeast coast agreed that the storm was being over-hyped.
“I live in South Florida (Fort Lauderdale). Storm was overhyped. [We’ve had] light rain and [it’s] breezy. I’ve seen stronger summer showers,” a reader commented on Heavy.
“I have played golf in worse conditions,” another reader said. “I live close to West Palm. [We’ve seen] 25 mph gusts to 40 mph, barely raining. In fact I am writing this while walking dog. [The storm is] s over-rated. I am glad, but [it is] all hype from what I am seeing.”
“Global warming is PC c**p,” a third reader commented angrily. “Storms have been developing for thousands of years. Democrats will use this crisis like they always do, even if that means standing on bodies.”
The concern expressed by people who feared that Drudge’s tweet could hamper efforts to convince people to evacuate ahead of arrival of the storm, downgraded from Category 4 to Category 3, followed warning by Republican Florida Governor Rick Scott that people should take government’s advice to evacuate seriously.
“There are no excuses,” Governor Rick Scott said at a media briefing in Tallahassee, according to Raw Story. “You need to leave. Evacuate, evacuate, evacuate. Are you willing to take a chance to risk your life? Are you willing to take a gamble? That’s what you’re doing.”
Urging people to evacuate, the National Weather Service also warned that Matthew could cause “loss of life” and “immense human suffering.”
And as critics feared, several other conspiracy theory bloggers took Drudge’s message and ran with it. Bloggers competed to suggest hidden motives — besides “making an exaggerated point on climate [change]” — behind the alleged “liberal conspiracy” to exaggerate the intensity and impact of Hurricane Matthew.
Some suggested that the storm was being over-hyped by big businesses to boost sales of emergency supply items, including food.
Conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh argued that mainstream media has supported the government’s climate change agenda by exaggerating the threat of hurricanes.
“So with hurricane tracking and hurricane forecasting, I’ve been able to spot where I think they might be playing games because it’s in the interests of the left to have destructive hurricanes because then they can blame it on climate change, which they can continue desperately continue trying to sell,” Limbaugh said, according to Wonkette.
Other conspiracy theorists followed up Drudge’s tweet with warnings about alleged weather modification experiments being conducted secretly by the government.
And despite officials having declared a state of emergence in several states — Florida, Georgia and South Carolina — and issuing warnings to two million people across the Southeast to evacuate and move inland, the Daily Mail reports that thousands refused to heed warnings to evacuate.
According to latest media reports, after being downgraded from a Category 4 to a Category 3 storm, Matthew slammed into Florida Friday morning with torrential downpour and winds with speeds of over 100 mph, leaving more than 340,000 without power and up to seven million under threat of power shortages.
The western tip of the storm’s eye, according to reports, had reached Cape Canaveral — where a USAF station and NASA’s Kennedy Space Center are located — by 7 a.m. Friday morning, with Walt Disney World, Universal Studios and SeaWorld all closed.
But there were hopes that a direct hit with land could be avoided if the hurricane continued on a northerly path.
“Matthew is grazing the coast of Florida without quite making landfall as the forecast models have been predicting and, if this remains the case, then the Florida coast will be spared the most powerful winds which are wrapped around the storm’s inner core,” a weather expert reportedly said.
[Featured Image by John Bazemore/AP]