Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross threatened to fire top employees at NOAA for accurately correcting President Donald Trump, according to a bombshell report published Monday by The New York Times.
"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," the newspaper reported.
"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," The Times continued.
Peter Baker, the chief White House correspondent for The Times and one of the authors of the piece was interviewed by MSNBC's Steve Kornacki on Monday.
"Is there any indication that Ross was told this by the president, to do this?" Kornacki asked.
"That’s a good question. One we’re asking about," Baker replied. "Obviously the White House had a certain interest in this. One administration official I talked to said, you know, it would be perfectly appropriate for NOAA to rein in what they consider to be a rogue office. Of course, that’s rogue only because they contradicted the president."
"But their argument is that speaking with so much certitude that the office was playing with politics. There doesn’t seem to be real evidence of that. Not like the Birmingham office is a hotbed of known political actors," he continued.
"Clearly the White House feels besieged. They’re trying to justify the president’s statement. They’re trying to undercut any contradiction of him and the most important contradiction of that was that statement, that tweet, that was put out by those forecasters in Alabama," Baker concluded.