The president of the United States is feuding with a weather forecast.
Speaking to reporters inside the Oval Office on Wednesday, President Donald Trump discussed Hurricane Dorian and its current path, eventually pulling out a days-old forecast map that appeared to be altered to bolster the president’s previous false claims that Alabama was in the hurricane’s path.
The president pointed to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s forecast map from August 29, and where the original forecast ended, a black circle apparently drawn in Sharpie was added. Trump offered no explanation for the apparent alteration.
The doctored map is just the latest in an ongoing saga wherein the president has doubled, if not tripled, down on claims that Alabama was in Dorian’s path. The original forecast from Aug. 29 predicted the hurricane making landfall in central Florida and dying out after crossing through the state. The president was briefed last Thursday using that exact map, according to photographs released that day by the White House.
Nowhere in that prediction was Alabama slated to be in the storm’s path. And yet, on Sunday, the president warned that Alabama could be “hit (much) harder than anticipated.” Despite the Birmingham branch of the National Weather Service blasting out that “Alabama will NOT see any impacts from #Dorian,” the president made the false claim two more times. On Monday, he tweeted that he said nothing wrong, claiming that “under certain original scenarios, it was in fact correct that Alabama could have received some ‘hurt.’”
Asked on Wednesday why the map appeared to have been doctored, Trump gave a bizarre non-denial. “I don't know. I don't know. I don't know,” he repeatedly said.
He then quadrupled down on the false Alabama claim: “I know that Alabama was in the original forecast, they thought it would get a piece of it. We have a better map... in all cases Alabama was hit, if not lightly in some cases pretty hard. They gave it a 95 percent chance.”
The NOAA, meanwhile, declined to address the president’s map discrepancies, referring all questions to the White House. (The White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment on this story.)
The president has a longstanding habit of refusing to back down from his incorrect assertions, even when proven definitively wrong; and he has an equally longstanding streak of enlisting aides and associates to help him perpetuate his lie or falsehood.
In this first year of his presidency, Trump held a meeting with military veterans and advocates in the White House, and refused to concede that it was napalm, not Agent Orange, in the famous scene from Apocalypse Now—even though Vietnam War vets told him to his face that he was mistaken.
And during his days hosting reality-TV show The Apprentice, years before he became president, Trump wouldn’t stop calling rapper Lil Jon an “Uncle Tom,” even after staffers informed him it was a racial slur and that he meant to say “Uncle Sam,” in reference to the Uncle Sam costume the rap artist wore. Producers pleaded with him to stop, but Trump just kept telling them, “No, that’s a saying, it’s Uncle Tom.”
This has been a banner series of weeks for Trump and hurricanes.
Late last month, the president posted a tweet complaining that Dorian looked like it was headed toward Puerto Rico, and took the time to snipe at his political enemies on the island. Shortly before that, Axios reported that Trump had repeatedly suggested to senior homeland-security and national-security officials that they look into deploying nuclear bombs to stop hurricanes as they form. The president was serious enough that, according to Axios, his remarks were even noted in a secret National Security Council memo.
After the story published, Trump publicly and repeatedly insisted that he never made such comments to senior officials, and that Axios made it all up. (The Daily Beast can confirm Axios’s reporting, per two sources familiar with Trump’s comments.)
In the past, some of the president’s private discussions regarding hurricanes have been decidedly more tongue-in-cheek than his nuke-the-hurricanes musings or the apparent doctoring of a government forecast map.
Since assuming the office, Trump has on multiple occasions joked about hostile or foreign nations, such as China, using top-secret technology to start hurricanes to attack America, according to two people with direct knowledge of his recurring joke.