the never-ending story
September 11, 2019

After President Trump told staffers that something had to be done about the National Weather Service's Birmingham office correcting his erroneous tweet about Hurricane Dorian threatening Alabama, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney called Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and said it was up to him to fix the problem, people with knowledge of the matter told The New York Times and The Washington Post.

The National Weather Service is part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which is under the Commerce Department's umbrella. Earlier this week, the Times reported that Ross called NOAA's acting administrator with a warning: If the agency didn't back up the president, someone would get fired. White House officials familiar with the matter told the Times and the Post that Mulvaney never directed Ross to threaten any firings.

Trump tweeted on Sept. 1 that Alabama would "most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated" by the hurricane. The National Weather Service's Birmingham office responded quickly, tweeting that Alabama "will NOT see any impacts from #Dorian." This resulted in Trump spending several days trying to prove he was right, even doing a shoddy job doctoring an outdated map to make it look like Alabama was once in harm's way.

On Friday, NOAA released an unsigned statement, saying the Birmingham office's tweet "spoke in absolute terms that were inconsistent with probabilities from the best forecast products available at the time." Meteorologists hit back, saying the tweet was "spot on and accurate" and warning that the White House is trying to politicize the weather. There are now multiple investigations into this whole debacle, which likely won't fizzle out the way Dorian finally did. Catherine Garcia

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