Donald Trump has been accused of doctoring a Hurricane Dorian forecast map with a Sharpie to support his false claim it would hit Alabama, potentially breaking a federal law in the process.
The US President made the false claim in a press conference and a tweet on Sunday (September 1), stating Alabama would be one of several states to be hit ‘(much) harder than anticipated’ by the hurricane.
Alabama was never one of the states referenced by experts which would be hit by the storm, with the National Weather Service office in Birmingham, Alabama, confirming this almost immediately after Trump’s claim.
— NWS Birmingham (@NWSBirmingham) September 1, 2019
Obviously, Trump wasn’t having any of it – despite several other meteorologists refuting his claims. So much so, in fact, that instead of admitting his mistake and focusing his attention on those people who are actually in danger, the president doubled down on his claims.
As per The Guardian, Trump held a briefing on Hurricane Dorian yesterday lunchtime (September 4) in the Oval Office, at one point holding up a map which appeared to back up his claim that Dorian could hit Alabama.
The outdated National Hurricane Center (NHC) map, from Thursday August 29, displayed the hurricane’s track and intensity and had previously been posted online by the weather service. However, the map Trump displayed had one major difference: someone had apparently used a Sharpie to add a black loop falsely extending the hurricane’s path from Florida to Alabama.
If you look closely, you can see the clear differences between the solid white line and the misshapen black one next to it:
This strange addition to the map caused uproar on social media, with many questioning whether the president himself was responsible for Sharpiegate and hitting Donald with his favourite insult – that he is a creator of ‘fake news’. Well, ‘fake weather news’, but you get the gist.
Altering the map could have more far-reaching repercussions than an accusation of ‘fake news’ might though; as per Buzzfeed News, it is illegal under federal law to pass off a doctored National Weather Service forecast as official, as pointed out by weather journalist Dennis Mersereau.
The law states:
Whoever knowingly issues or publishes any counterfeit weather forecast or warning of weather conditions falsely representing such forecast or warning to have been issued or published by the Weather Bureau, United States Signal Service, or other branch of the Government service, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ninety days, or both.
Of all the things which could have possibly been the downfall of Trump, who would have ever thought #Sharpiegate would be the one to do it?
It is a violation of federal law to falsify a National Weather Service forecast and pass it off as official, as President Trump did here.
— Dennis Mersereau (@wxdam) September 4, 2019
Trump has denied all knowledge of whether Sharpie was used to alter the map, or who might have done it. When asked about it on Wednesday, the president insisted: ‘I don’t know, I don’t know,’ as per The Washington Post, via The Guardian.
While Trump is busy persisting his wrong claim about Alabama is actually true – even posting another, irrelevant hurricane map from South Florida Water Management District which specifically states NHC Advisories supersede it – those along the US east coast are bracing themselves for a ‘life-threatening storm surge’.
As per BBC News, residents from Georgia all the way up to Virginia have been warned to listen to emergency advice as the category three hurricane slowly moves north after claiming at least 20 lives in The Bahamas.
The storm – the strongest to ever make landfall in the country after striking in Elbow Cay in the Abaco Islands at 12.40pm on Sunday (September 1) with winds of 220mph – caused immeasurable destruction on the Caribbean island, wiping out entire neighbourhoods.
As teams search through the rubble in the coming days, Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said at a news conference last night (September 4) they expect the death toll of 20 will increase, CNN reports.
Hurricane Dorian is expected to move ‘near or over’ the coast of South Carolina today (September 5), before moving to the coast of North Carolina overnight and on Friday (September 6).
The president has remained quiet on that front though, instead focusing his efforts on ensuring his followers know he’s right and everyone else is wrong. Sure, you keep telling yourself that Trump.
If you have a story you want to tell send it to UNILAD via [email protected]
A Broadcast Journalism Masters graduate who went on to achieve an NCTJ level 3 Diploma in Journalism, Lucy has done stints at ITV, BBC Inside Out and Key 103. While working as a journalist for UNILAD, Lucy has reported on breaking news stories while also writing features about mental health, cervical screening awareness, and Little Mix (who she is unapologetically obsessed with).