An unsigned statement from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) backing President TrumpDonald TrumpOmar, Muslim Democrats decry Islamophobia amid death threats On The Money — Powell pivots as inflation rises Trump cheers CNN's Cuomo suspension MORE over the National Weather Service (NWS) in claiming Alabama could be in the path of Hurricane Dorian is reportedly under investigation by the Commerce Department’s Office of Inspector General.
In a message to NOAA staff members, Inspector General Peggy E. Gustafson wrote that the NWS “must maintain standards of scientific integrity,” according to The New York Times.
Gustafson added that the episode had called “into question the NWS’s processes, scientific independence, and ability to communicate accurate and timely weather warnings and data to the nation in times of national emergency.”
The inspector general's office has asked NOAA employees to preserve their communications relating to the Friday statement, according to the Times.
The report comes on the heels of an earlier report that Commerce Secretary Wilbur RossWilbur Louis RossBannon's subpoena snub sets up big decision for Biden DOJ House panel, Commerce Department reach agreement on census documents China sanctions Wilbur Ross, others after US warns of doing business in Hong Kong MORE threatened to fire NOAA staff who did not back Trump’s statements about the storm. A department spokesperson declined to comment to the Times on whether Ross spoke to the NOAA administrator or ordered it to issue the statement.
“Secretary Ross did not threaten to fire any NOAA staff over forecasting and public statements about Hurricane Dorian,” the spokesperson reportedly said.
Meanwhile, the acting chief scientist of the NOAA is reportedly investigating whether the unsigned statement was a breach of ethics.
“The content of this press release is very concerning as it compromises the ability of NOAA to convey life-saving information necessary to avoid substantial and specific danger to public health and safety," Craig McLean said in a Sunday email.
“I am pursuing the potential violations of our NOAA Administrative Order on Scientific Integrity,” he added.
The Hill has reached out to the Commerce Department for comment.
Trump has faced more than a week of controversy over his claim that Dorian could be headed for Alabama, which was immediately contradicted by the Birmingham NWS office. He repeatedly doubled down on his tweet, including presenting an NOAA that appeared to have been altered with a marker to show Alabama in Dorian's path.