Staff at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration were instructed not to offer comments correcting Donald Trump’s false assertions about Hurricane Dorian, a new report claims.
The Washington Post reported this weekend that the NOAA issued a directive to its staff on September 1 telling them to “stick with official National Hurricane Center forecasts if questions arise from some national level social media posts which hit the news this afternoon.” Staff were warned not to offer “any opinion” when asked about Hurricane Dorian, which one source told the newspaper was a reference to the false comments that Trump had made insisting that the storm could hit Alabama.
This came after some federal agencies had already publicly contradicted Trump. Shortly after Trump’s comments, the Birmingham, Alabama, branch of the National Weather Service wrote a tweet correcting Trump and saying that the storm was not headed for Alabama. Many other meteorologists had also publicly corrected Trump, with some noting that his insistence the storm could hit Alabama may have caused unnecessary panic there.
As Deadline reported, many in the weather community are outraged over the agencies protecting Donald Trump’s false claim.
Dan Sobien, president of the National Weather Service Employees Organization, called the NOAA tweet that criticized the Birmingham branch “utterly disgusting.”
“Let me assure you the hard working employees of the NWS had nothing to do with the utterly disgusting and disingenuous tweet sent out by NOAA management tonight,” Sobien tweeted.
A source within the NOAA told the Washington Post that the agency sent a second directive after Trump altered a hurricane forecast map, drawing on it with a Sharpie marker to make it appear as if the projected path went through Alabama. Those within the agency said it was an unprecedented request.
“This is the first time I’ve felt pressure from above to not say what truly is the forecast,” one meteorologist told the newspaper. “It’s hard for me to wrap my head around.”
NEW, exclusive: NOAA staff warned in Sept. 1 directive against contradicting Trump: https://t.co/SbABVx8pec— Capital Weather Gang (@capitalweather) September 8, 2019
Trump has faced widespread criticism, both for the false claim that the storm was projected to hit Alabama and his continued insistence that he was correct. Trump has repeatedly tweeted about the claim and tried to provide evidence showing he was correct, including holding a press conference with an outdated map showing the storm moving through Florida. By that point, the hurricane’s path had already shifted and it was moving up the eastern coast. The map had a circle drawn in marker to extend the path into Alabama.