The New York Times is reporting that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross threatened to fire a NOAA staffer after the National Weather Service in Birmingham corrected President Donald Trump’s claim that Hurricane Dorian was going to devastate Alabama. According to NOAA, after the president’s tweet, they were inundated with questions about the hurricane coming to Alabama.
According to three sources, Ross intervened two days after the Twitter exchange. He called acting NOAA administrator Neil Jacobs while in Greece and told Jacobs to “fix” the contradiction.
Jacobs reportedly objected to Ross’ demands and Ross responded by saying that the political staff at NOAA would be fired if nothing was fixed.
Political appointees are appointed by the administrator and the White House, but career researchers, meteorologists and other scientists are long-term government employees.
The National Weather Service Director went another route with the incident. In a meeting Monday, Louis Uccellini said that forecasters in Birmingham “did what any office would do to protect the public” when they issued the rebuke of Trump.
When spending the Labor Day holiday weekend golfing, Trump claimed that he was getting hourly updates on the hurricane. It’s unclear why Trump would get such an outdated weather report predicting the hurricane was going to Alabama. By the very early morning of Aug. 31, forecasters found that the storm was moving north. Trump ultimately found a Rear Admiral willing to fall on the sword for the Alabama forecast flub.
“The New York Times story is false. Secretary Ross did not threaten to fire any NOAA staff over forecasting and public statements about Hurricane Dorian,” said a Commerce Department spokesperson.