President Donald Trump, who repeatedly attacks journalists as “the enemy of the people” and “fake news,” was confronted by reporters on Wednesday after he displayed a modified National Hurricane Center “Cone of Uncertainty” forecast, dated from 11 a.m. on Aug. 29, that appears to have been altered with a black Sharpie to indicate a risk the storm would move into Alabama from Florida.
The altered graphic appeared to be an attempt to retroactively justify a tweet Trump issued over the weekend in which he falsely warned that Alabama would be impacted by Hurricane Dorian.
“In addition to Florida – South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama, will most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated,” Trump falsely claimed on Sunday. The NWS responded 20 minutes later with a statement fact-checking Trump’s tweet: “Alabama will NOT see any impacts from Dorian. We repeat, no impacts from Hurricane Dorian will be felt across Alabama.”
When a reporter asked Trump about the doctored graphic, Trump claimed he had no idea who altered the image.
“No, I just know that Alabama was in the original forecast,” Trump said. “They thought it would get a piece of it. It was supposed to go — actually we have a better map than that, which is going to be presented where we had many lines going directly, many models, each line being a model, and they would go directly through and in all cases Alabama if not lightly in some places pretty hard. Georgia, Alabama was a different route. They actually gave that 95 percent chance probability. Turns out that is not what happened, it made the right turn up the coast.”
“Georgia will be, possibly,” Trump continued. “We’re going to see. We’re right at that point right now but I think Georgia will be in great shape. Everyone is going to be in great shape because we’re going to take care of it regardless. But the original path was through Florida. That was probably three days — I think that’s three, four days old. The original path that most people thought it was going to be taking, as you know, was right through Florida where on the right would have been Georgia, Alabama, et cetera.”
“That map you showed us today, it looked like it almost had like a Sharpie on it,” the reporter noted.
“I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know,” Trump repeated.
REPORTER: That map you showed us today, it looked like it almost had like a Sharpie on it.
TRUMP: I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know. pic.twitter.com/d2oZemOshh
— JM Rieger (@RiegerReport) September 4, 2019
The Washington Post noted that “altering official government weather forecasts isn’t just a cause for concern — it’s illegal.”
Per 18 U.S. Code 2074, which addresses false weather reports, “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.”