Trump official threatens to fire weather service employees who contradicted president's false Alabama hurricane claims

Alabama was not hit by Hurricane Dorian

Lily Puckett
New York
Tuesday 10 September 2019 07:03
Donald Trump shows off map purporting to support false claim that Hurricane Dorian was heading for Alabama

Wilbur Ross, the US secretary of commerce, threatened to fire top employees at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration after the agency’s Birmingham, Alabama office contradicted Donald Trump's tweet claiming that Hurricane Dorian would likely hit Alabama, according to a report from The New York Times.

Mr Ross's threat led to the release of an unsigned letter from NOAA disavowing not only the Birmingham tweet, but the organisation's own knowledge of the storm, in favour of the president's false claim.

The Alabama saga began Sunday, September 1, when Mr Trump warned Alabama that they would "most likely be hit" by Hurricane Dorian, along with other states actually in the incoming storm's path. About an hour later, Birmingham's NOAA office tweeted "Alabama will NOT see any impacts from #Dorian," emphasising that it the storm would remain too far east to affect the state. This was correct.

A few days later, as the storm actually affected American coastal states, the president presented a map to reporters on which someone had drawn a circle indicating that Alabama would be hit. It was still not hit.

According to three people who spoke with the New York Times, Mr Ross threatened high level employees on Friday, two days after the president displayed the altered hurricane map, which the president has denied defacing himself.

Mr Ross reportedly called Neil Jacobs, the acting administrator of NOAA, and told him to "fix" the agency's contradiction with the president, which was, of course, the reality of the weather. Mr Ross was on vacation in Greece at the time.

A Commerce spokesperson said: "The New York Times story is false. Secretary Ross did not threaten to fire any NOAA staff over forecasting and public statements about Hurricane Dorian."

When Dr Jacobs objected, he was told that the staff appointed by the administration at NOAA, or the political staff, would be fired if a vindication of the president's lie was not made.

The president has been focused on the Alabama tweets since he was rebuked. On Tuesday, his daughter Ivanka will travel to Alabama for an announcement. Dr Jacobs is scheduled to speak in the state on the same day, some twenty miles away from Ms Trump, at a weather industry conference.

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