Donald Trump has been spreading misinformation about Hurricane Dorian since it became obvious the storm would hit the U.S. He remarked at one point that he was "not sure" that he had "ever even heard of a Category 5" hurricane before, despite the fact that since he took office, three other storms that struck parts of the country had reached that stage. But he made more alarming, and potentially dangerous, claims when he tweeted, "In addition to Florida — South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama, will most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated."
By that point, the storm wasn't on course to hit Alabama at all, projected instead to go up the east coast, and the Birmingham office of the National Weather Service, in response to a flurry of calls and inquiries, issued a correction on Twitter, saying, "Alabama will NOT see any impacts from #Dorian." Trump has since repeatedly defended his wrong claim on Twitter, and when he appeared in the Oval Office on Thursday with a map of Dorian's trajectory, he added a small bubble in permanent marker that included the southern tip of Alabama.
But Trump apparently had federal agencies joining him in the damage control. Hours after his initial tweet wrongly claiming that Alabama would be hit, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the agency overseeing the National Weather Service, emailed its personnel instructing them to "only stick with official National Hurricane Center forecasts if questions arise from some national level social media posts which hit the news this afternoon" and not to "provide any opinion," according to copies of the email obtained by the Washington Post. An NOAA meteorologist told the Post that it was clearly a reference to the president:
The agency sent a similar message warning scientists and meteorologists not to speak out on Sept. 4, after Trump showed a hurricane map from Aug. 29 modified with a hand-drawn, half-circle in black Sharpie around Alabama. "This is the first time I’ve felt pressure from above to not say what truly is the forecast," the meteorologist said. "It’s hard for me to wrap my head around. One of the things we train on is to dispel inaccurate rumors and ultimately that is what was occurring — ultimately what the Alabama office did is provide a forecast with their tweet, that is what they get paid to do"
Traditionally, the National Weather Service and the NOAA have not been considered partisan, focusing instead on theoretically apolitical weather reports. Regardless, Trump has been posting outdated trajectories for Dorian, claiming that they validate his initial inaccurate claims that Alabama was in the storm's path: "In the one model through Florida, the Great State of Alabama would have been hit or grazed. In the path it took, no. Read my FULL FEMA statement. What I said was accurate! All Fake News in order to demean!"
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Originally Appeared on GQ