WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump appeared to show a doctored chart of Hurricane Dorian’s path during a press conference at the Oval Office on Wednesday.
The chart displayed a several-day-old National Hurricane Center “cone of uncertainty” forecast, except the cone depicting Dorian’s possible path appeared to be extended with an extra half-cone into Alabama — which looked like it was drawn with a black Sharpie marker. The forecast was dated Aug. 29.
Janice Dean, senior meteorologist for Fox News, said on Twitter that the “sharpie-bubble was drawn by someone else.”
“Just so everyone is clear. This forecast cone was from 5 days ago. Alabama was NEVER in the official cone from the @NHC_Atlantic The sharpie-bubble was drawn by someone else. This map is inaccurate, misleading and fake,“ Dean tweeted, along with images of the doctored chart.
A reporter asked Trump about the apparently inaccurate chart, according to a Washington Post reporter.
“A reporter just now asks about the map Trump showed in the Oval Office today, which looked like the president may have used a Sharpie to draw a circle to intersect Alabama,” Felicia Sonmez tweeted. “Trump ... doesn't say no. 'I don't know. I don't know. I don't know,' he says.”
On Sept. 1, Trump tweeted that Alabama would “most likely be hit” by Hurricane Dorian.
“In addition to Florida - South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama, will most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated. Looking like one of the largest hurricanes ever. Already category 5. BE CAREFUL! GOD BLESS EVERYONE!” he tweeted.
But that same day, the National Weather Service of Birmingham confirmed that Alabama would not be affected.
“Alabama will NOT see any impacts from #Dorian. We repeat, no impacts from Hurricane #Dorian will be felt across Alabama. The system will remain too far east. #alwx,“ the weather service tweeted.
The next day, Trump appeared to push back on that claim through Twitter.
“Such a phony hurricane report by lightweight reporter @jonkarl (https://twitter.com/jonkarl) of @ABCWorldNews (https://twitter.com/ABCWorldNews). I suggested yesterday at FEMA that, along with Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina, even Alabama could possibly come into play, which WAS true. They made a big deal about this...“ he tweeted on Sept. 2.
“....when in fact, under certain original scenarios, it was in fact correct that Alabama could have received some “hurt.” Always good to be prepared! But the Fake News is only interested in demeaning and belittling. Didn’t play my whole sentence or statement. Bad people!“ he continued in a second tweet.
On Wednesday, a NOAA spokesperson is “now declining to say whether Alabama was ever in Dorian's possible path,” LA Times reported Chris Megerian tweeted.
“‘I just don't have it in front of me,' she (NOAA spokesperson) says,” Megerian tweeted.
At a White House event on opioids Wednesday afternoon, Trump was asked about the modified hurricane forecast chart, the Washington Post reported.
Trump said his briefings included a “95-percent chance probability” that Alabama would be hit, saying “I don’t know” when asked if the chart had been drawn on, according to the report.
NOAA did not immediately return a request from the Post for a statement about the altered forecast map, which displays the agency’s logo.
The White House did not return requests from the paper for comment.
Per 18 U.S. Code 2074, altering official government weather forecasts is illegal. The law applies to NOAA’s National Weather Service, which includes the National Hurricane Center, according to the Post.
“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 code said.
This story was reported from Los Angeles.