President Trump on Wednesday displayed a Hurricane Dorian forecast map that appeared to have been doctored to falsely show the powerful storm was on track to hit Alabama.
Trump showed off the map in the Oval Office after falsely stating in a tweet Sunday that Alabama was among the several states expected to face impacts from the hurricane, raising the ire of meteorologists and government forecasters.
About 20 minutes after Trump’s tweet Sunday, the National Weather Service office in Birmingham took the unusual step of tweeting that “Alabama will NOT see any impacts from #Dorian.”
James Spann, a renowned broadcast meteorologist in Alabama, also hit back at the president’s false claim, tweeting, “Alabama will not be impacted by Dorian in any way.”
“I have zero interest in politics. Dorian will not affect Alabama in any way. That is not a political statement,” Spann said in a tweet.
Trump’s tweet was later fact-checked by Jonathan Karl on ABC World News, prompting the president to lash out at the reporter, calling it a “phony hurricane report by [a] lightweight reporter.” Trump went on to claim — without citing any sources and contrary to his own government’s forecast — that “under certain original scenarios, it was in fact correct that Alabama could have received some ‘hurt.’”
On Wednesday, Trump doubled down on the false claim, displaying a map that appeared to have been marked up with a Sharpie to show the hurricane’s trajectory extending into southeastern Alabama.
Spokespeople for the White House and National Weather Service did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Under federal law, it is illegal to pass off a doctored National Weather Service forecast as official, weather journalist Dennis Mersereau pointed out.
“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,” the law states.
After Trump displayed the altered forecast Wednesday, a White House reporter asked him about the map, saying “it looked like someone took a Sharpie....,” the Washington Post reported.
“I don’t know. I don’t know,” Trump reportedly replied, repeating the false claim that Alabama was in the storm’s path.