Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross threatened to fire NOAA officials after employees at the agency’s Birmingham, Alabama, office contradicted President Trump’s false claim that Alabama would be hit by Hurricane Dorian, The New York Times reports. President Trump tweeted on Sept. 1 that Alabama “will most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated.” Minutes later, the National Weather Service in Birmingham tweeted that “Alabama will NOT see any impacts from Dorian. We repeat, no impacts from Hurricane Dorian will be felt across Alabama.” The secretary reportedly stepped into the unfolding debacle days later, after Trump presented a doctored map that supported his original claim.
According to people familiar with Ross’ actions, he reportedly called the acting administrator of NOAA, Neil Jacobs, and told him he must fix the agency’s perceived correction of the president. When Jacobs refused, Ross reportedly threatened to fire political staff at NOAA if he did not comply. The Department of Commerce denied the report. “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,” a commerce spokesperson told The Daily Beast. A senior Trump official told the Times, without providing evidence, that the Birmingham forecasters were wrong in their actions, suggesting that they intended to embarrass the president, rather than provide accurate information for the people of Alabama.