Trump’s map flap, his tweet that Hurricane Dorian would hit Alabama “harder than anticipated,” has left in its wake a political imbroglio at the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration.
At the heart of the matter is the response by the National Weather Service in Alabama that the state was not in danger of a blow from Dorian. That report did nothing to dissuade Trump, who later displayed a map that apparently had been altered by a Sharpie to show Alabama in Dorian’s path.
After the NOAA’s office contradicted Trump, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross threatened to fire top employees at NOAA. That threat provoked an unsigned statement later by the NOAA disavowing the office’s own position that Alabama was not at risk.
The reversal is now a bone of contention at the NOAA and the source of criticism from the scientists at the NOAA, which is a division of the Commerce Department, suggesting the department had been “bent to political purposes.”
According to several news accounts, Ross phoned Neil Jacobs, the acting administrator of NOAA, instructing him to fix the agency’s contradiction.
When Jacobs refused, he was told that staff at NOAA would be fired if the situation was not fixed, according to individuals who have requested anonymity.
An unconfirmed follow-up to the incident said the NOAA was only moving to correct an erroneous report from a Birmingham forecast that was done to embarrass Trump.
Even so, you would think that someone in Trump’s inner circle would have briefed him on this, possibly preventing the tweeting of such information.
On Monday, Craig McLean, the NOAA’s acting chief scientist, sent an email to staff members notifying the agency that he was looking into “potential violations” in the agency’s decision to ultimately back Trump’s statements rather than those of its own scientists. The agency’s action, he said, was “a danger to public health and safety.”