NOAA Employees Cry Foul as Agency Backs Trump in Sharpiegate; Insiders Worry About President’s Mental Stability

Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Current and past NOAA employees are condemning the agency’s decision to back President Donald Trump’s disputed claim last weekend that Alabama was at risk from Hurricane Dorian even after the storm’s path had moved it away from the state.

“As a former @NOAA leader I can say two things with certainty. No NOAA Administrator I worked for would have done this. And I would have quit if I had been directed to agree to let this BS go out,” tweeted Monica Medina, who previously served as deputy undersecretary of the Commerce Department where NOAA is housed.

In a statement attributed only to a NOAA spokesperson, the agency refuted its own denial last Sunday that Alabama continued to be at risk as Dorian moved toward Florida.

“From Wednesday, August 28, through Monday, September 2, the information provided by NOAA and the National Hurricane Center to President Trump and the wider public demonstrated that tropical-storm-force winds from Hurricane Dorian could impact Alabama. This is clearly demonstrated in Hurricane Advisories #15 through #41, which can be viewed on the center’s website.

“The Birmingham National Weather Service’s Sunday morning tweet spoke in absolute terms that were inconsistent with probabilities from the best forecast products available at the time.”

Trump spend much of the last six days asserting he was right and attacking critics such as ABC News, which reported on NOAA’s correction. In an incident dubbed Sharpiegate, the president held up a map on which someone had included Alabama in the path of the storm using a black marker.

Trump said he didn’t know three times when asked by a reporter who drew on the map. Media have quoted White House officials as saying Trump had drawn on the map.

Former and current NOAA officials say the president’s actions and the agency’s statement risk politicizing the agency and undermining public confidence in its vital forecasts. The Daily Beast reports:

The head of the union that represents federal weather workers said Friday that his members are “shocked, stunned and irate” that the federal agency whose workers they represent put out a statement siding with President Trump in the increasingly bizarre dispute over whether Hurricane Dorian was on track to hit Alabama.

“Never ever before has their management thrown them under the bus like this,” said Dan Sobien, president of the National Weather Service Employees Organization, which represents 4,000 employees under the umbrella of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

“These are the people risking their lives flying into hurricanes and putting out forecasts that save lives. Never before has their management undercut their scientifically sound reasoning and forecasts,” Sobien told The Daily Beast.

Climate change scientists have warned that a warming Earth caused by human greenhouse gas emissions is making weather more unpredictable and violent and hurricanes stronger. Dorian was the fourth Category 5 hurricane — the most powerful level — to develop in the Caribbean since took office more than 2.5 years ago.

However, Trump has called climate change a hoax invented by China to destroy American industry. His administration has removed climate information data from government websites, deleted mention of climate change impacts from press releases, and prevented government scientists from attending conferences to give talks on the subject.

In a report titled, Sidelining Science Since Day One, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) detailed “dozens of cases where science has been ignored, denied, distorted, silenced, or hidden from public view” during Trump’s first six months in office. UCS said:

Since President Trump took office in January 2017, his administration (aided and abetted by Congress) has waged a war on science—undermining the role of science in public policy, giving industry undue influence on decisionmaking processes, creating a hostile environment for federal scientists, and reducing public access to scientific information.

This pattern of anti-science actions threatens the health and safety of the American people, with the greatest impacts likely to fall on the nation’s most vulnerable populations. The science community and the general public have responded to this threat with vigorous resistance, and we must continue to stand up for science if we are to prevent the worst potential consequences of the Trump administration’s actions.

The Columbia Law School’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Law has compiled a comprehensive list of the Trump Administration’s actions on the subject.

In response to the Trump Administration’s actions and concerns about climate change, the Action Network is calling for a Climate Strike to occur on September 20.

Over the last year, millions of school climate strikers have been leaving their classrooms every Friday. Young people have woken up much of the world, and now they are asking everyone else to join them in action.

And on September 20, to coincide with the big UN climate meeting, we will support our youth’s call for adults to join them in the streets. Strikes can be a powerful tactic for shifting the balance of power by disrupting business as usual.

We urge the scientific community to stop work for a day, leave your labs, offices, classrooms, and fieldwork sites, and participate in the Global Climate Strike.

Meanwhile, Business Insider quotes White House insiders as saying they are increasingly concerned about what they say is Trump’s increasingly erratic behavior.

The sources, who are accustomed to the president’s misstatements, were particularly concerned that Trump was giving out incorrect information in the midst of a national emergency and his subsequent obsession with proving that he was correct.

“His mood changes from one minute to the next based on some headline or tweet, and the next thing you know his entire schedule gets tossed out the window because he’s losing his s—,” one former White House official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal conversations about the president, told Insider.

“He’s deteriorating in plain sight,” one Republican strategist who is in frequent contact with the White House told Insider on Friday.

But a person who was close to Trump’s legal team during the Russia investigation told Insider his public statements were “nothing compared to what he’s like behind closed doors.”

“He’s like a bull seeing red,” this person added. “There’s just no getting through to him, and you can kiss your plans for the day goodbye because you’re basically stuck looking after a 4-year-old now.”

Sources said the president seems stressed by the upcoming 2020 presidential election and a slowing economy.