The controversy surrounding Donald Trump’s bizarre response to Hurricane Dorian continued on Monday as The New York Times reported that his administration threatened to fire officials at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) if they didn’t go along with the president’s false forecast.
According to the report, “The Secretary of Commerce threatened to fire top employees at NOAA on Friday after the agency’s Birmingham office contradicted President Trump’s claim that Hurricane Dorian might hit Alabama, according to three people familiar with the discussion.”
As a result of the bullying from the Commerce Department, the NOAA issued a strange statement – which reversed its earlier position – that went along with Trump’s debunked claim that Alabama was in the path of Hurricane Dorian.
More from The New York Times:
That threat led to an unusual, unsigned statement later that Friday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration disavowing the office’s own position that Alabama was not at risk. The reversal caused widespread anger within the agency and drew criticism from the scientific community that NOAA, a division of the Commerce Department, had been bent to political purposes.
Mr. Ross, the commerce secretary, intervened two days later, early last Friday, according to the three people familiar with his actions. Mr. Ross phoned Neil Jacobs, the acting administrator of NOAA, from Greece where the secretary was traveling for meetings and instructed Dr. Jacobs to fix the agency’s perceived contradiction of the president.
Dr. Jacobs objected to the demand and was told that the political staff at NOAA would be fired if the situation was not fixed, according to the three individuals, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the episode. Unlike career government employees, political staff are appointed by the administration. They usually include a handful of top officials, such as Dr. Jacobs, and their aides.
Not even the NOAA was proud of its forced statement
It was almost immediately evident that not even the NOAA wasn’t proud of its forced statement backing the president. The New York Times report on Monday made it even more clear that the leadership at the agency was not in favor of giving political cover to Donald Trump.
The NOAA eventually released a bizarre statement to appease the toddler president, but the fact that it was unsigned, as The Times noted, shows that no one at the agency wanted anything to do with it.
It wasn’t just the leadership that opposed Trump’s politicization of the NOAA. As I wrote over the weekend, thousands of federal weather workers were furious about the agency’s decision to carry water for the White House.
As this story stretches into yet another week, it’s clear that Donald Trump and his protectors in the administration were more concerned about the politics of a hurricane than they were about making sure those in the affected regions were safe and prepared for the powerful storm.
Sean Colarossi currently resides in Cleveland, Ohio. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and was an organizing fellow for both of President Obama’s presidential campaigns. He also worked with Planned Parenthood as an Affordable Care Act Outreach Organizer in 2014, helping northeast Ohio residents obtain health insurance coverage.