As Hurricane Dorian stormed along the Carolina coast Thursday, President Donald Trump put his focus on another state, continuing to contend that the storm once threatened Alabama.
Trump shared several messages on Twitter on Thursday morning insisting that “certain models strongly suggested” Alabama would be hit by the hurricane as it made its way through Florida, even as the storm threatened hundreds of thousands of residents in the Carolinas.
In the afternoon, he doubled down on that message, tweeting that he “was with you all the way Alabama” and sharing National Weather Service maps showing a small chance of hurricane-force winds making their way to the state. But those maps were issued Aug. 29 and 30, well before Trump claimed Sunday that the state was at risk.
The White House also dug in, issuing a statement Thursday evening from Coast Guard Rear Adm. Peter Brown, who said he briefed Trump multiple times about Dorian, including Sunday morning about “the possibility of tropical storm force winds in southeastern Alabama." Brown also noted that “the forecast track changed substantially over time." Brown oversees Coast Guard operations in the Southeastern United States.
The weather service made it clear that Dorian posed no threat to Alabama, tweeting out a correction 20 minutes after Trump made his false claim. The White House also posted a photo on its official Flickr account showing Trump being briefed on Aug. 29 with the correct map — showing no threat to Alabama — by acting National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration head Neil Jacobs.
During a news conference Wednesday afternoon, Trump touted a forecast map issued a week ago by the National Weather Service. But the map Trump produced for reporters showed the hurricane’s projected path extended by a black marker to include Alabama, which the president insisted was among the states “most likely to be hit harder than anticipated.”
When pressed by reporters whether he altered the map himself with a black Sharpie, Trump didn’t deny it, according to pool reports. Instead, the president simply repeated, “I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know.”
“Just so everyone is clear. This forecast cone was from 5 days ago," Fox News meteorologist Janice Dean tweeted following Trump’s news conference, calling the map Trump showed reporters “inaccurate, misleading and fake.” However, on Fox & Friends, which the president watches regularly, the altered map wasn’t mentioned Thursday morning.
Not surprisingly, Trump was mocked by late-night comedians over the altered map. “Not only do we have fake news, we now have fake weather, too,” ABC host Jimmy Kimmel said. Stephen Colbert, host of The Late Show on CBS, joked that Trump was going to “weather jail,” pointing out it’s technically illegal if someone “knowingly issues or publishes any counterfeit weather forecast.”
“Did he draw … did he draw with a Sharpie?” The Daily Show’s Trevor Noah asked before breaking down in laughter. “The president of the United States just changed a map with a Sharpie to make himself look right. And he thought we wouldn’t notice.”
Comedians weren’t the only ones to call out Trump’s altered map. Gary Szatkowski, a former National Weather Service meteorologist who worked out of the agency’s office in Mount Holly, criticized the president for continuing to focus on days-old information while Hurricane Dorian continued to move in on South Carolina.
“Having a President more focused on where the Hurricane wasn’t going as opposed to where it is going seems suboptimal,” Dan Pfeiffer, a former Obama White House communications director and current Pod Save America host, wrote on Twitter.