Newly released emails reveal officials’ panic over loss of credibility after Trump’s Dorian claims
Newly released emails from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reflect the internal concern over the agency’s credibility after it released a statement backing up President Trump’s forecast of Hurricane Dorian’s projected path last fall.
The emails, which were obtained by The Washington Post and other outlets as part of a Freedom of Information Act request, show complaints from members of the public to the agency’s National Hurricane Center (NHC) Director Ken Graham, as well as complaints from internal staff.
One email from a member of the public reads: “I was heartsick and dumbstruck to see the NOAA announcement today supporting the president’s ludicrous and psychotic defense of his Alabama forecast garbage. Mr. Graham, as a fellow scientist and professional, would you kindly reassure me that the politics of a lunatic will not be affecting the science done at NOAA and the NHC?”
Trump on Sept. 1 tweeted that Alabama was a potential target of Hurricane Dorian, writing, “In addition to Florida – South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama, will most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated.”
After Trump’s remarks, a National Weather Service office in Alabama tweeted that the state would “NOT” be affected.
Trump continued to stand behind his statement on Alabama, however, and on Sept. 4 displayed a map of Dorian’s projected path that appeared to show the path extended with black marker to include Alabama.
Two days later, the NOAA issued an unsigned statement backing up Trump, saying the information provided to him and the public showed “that tropical-storm-force winds from Hurricane Dorian could impact Alabama.”
That unsigned statement sparked, according to one NOAA employee’s email, more than 600 emails from the public. The employee wrote that “most are asking, in some form, ‘How can we trust NOAA?’ or stating that ‘NOAA has lost its credibility.’”
Other emails from staff also raised concerns about the appearance of credibility. One employee wrote: “Our integrity as a science agency is priceless … when the next storm comes by (and it will), will we be believed?”
The new batch of emails expands on previously released internal NOAA emails expressing concern over the Hurricane Dorian storm path projections.
They also come as the Trump administration already faces questions surrounding how it will deal with the press amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was told to “stand down” and not appear on five Sunday morning talk shows to discuss the coronavirus after Vice President Pence took over the administration’s response, according to Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif.).
Director of the National Economic Council Larry Kudlow told reporters Friday, “No one’s being stifled. No one’s being told what to say,” adding that the directive from Pence was more about coordinating the message.
Trump has also asserted the issue is being handled carefully by the White House and appropriate steps have been taken to deal with the virus.