Brave government employees are standing up to Trump’s unbelievable claims about Hurricane Dorian and insisting on truth.
Trump repeatedly said that Alabama was at risk, when the state wasn’t, and then he insisted he was right when he was wrong. Federal agencies felt pressure to support his lies. And that’s what makes this episode so troubling and so long-lasting. When folks talk about a war on truth, this is exactly what they’re talking about.
But here’s the good news: Staffers at the agencies are not staying silent.
Four new developments
In an email to staff, NOAA’s acting chief scientist Craig McLean credited
the National Weather Service’s Birmingham office with correcting “any public misunderstanding in an expert and timely way,” in other words, disputing the president’s misinformation. Per The Washington Post,
McLean said he is “pursuing the potential violations of our NOAA Administrative Order on Scientific Integrity.”
Also on Monday, NWS director Louis Uccellini spoke at a conference and praised the Birmingham office and said “they did what any office would do.” When he asked the local staffers to stand up and be recognized, there was a long standing ovation, per attendees.
Later in the day, The New York Times
, citing three anonymous sources, said Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross “threatened to fire top employees” at NOAA over the Birmingham brouhaha. Ross denied the report. But The New York Times said, very specifically, that Ross “phoned Neil Jacobs, the acting administrator of NOAA, from Greece where the secretary was traveling for meetings and instructed Dr. Jacobs to fix the agency’s perceived contradiction of the president.” Later that day, NOAA came out with a B.S. statement that tried to support Trump despite all the available evidence at hand.
The statement “is now being examined by the Commerce Department’s Office of Inspector General,” The New York Times reported.
What’s the takeaway here?
This: “At stake,” The Washington Post’s team wrote
, “is public trust in weather forecasts and warnings aimed at saving lives and protecting property, as many current and former NOAA leaders and meteorologists have expressed fear that this controversy has damaged NWS’s credibility.”
CNN national security analyst Samantha Vinograd emails: “The job of a cabinet secretary — in a democracy at least — isn’t to be the President’s personal censor, especially when lives are at risk. Wilbur Ross’s actions could have real human and financial costs. His job as commerce secretary is to advance business interests. But by threatening anyone at NOAA who disagreed with the president’s personal narrative is the exact opposite of that — part of NOAA’s mission is to provide businesses and communities with reliable information about the environment and weather so that they can protect themselves. Silencing facts is both undemocratic and it puts business interests and lives at risk.”
Vinograd adds: “In the near term, restrictions placed on NOAA means that real news — which could save lives when we’re talking about the weather — isn’t allowed to get out. Fake news — which could spread panic — is instead percolating at the president’s behest. This is state sponsored censorship with real human and financial costs.”
Trump “crossed a line”
“To say this out loud sounds ludicrous,” Anderson Cooper admitted on Monday’s “AC360,” but it’s true: “We have federal employees getting reprimanded for accurately disclosing scientific truths.”
“We do,” former W.H. ethics lawyer Richard Painter said. “And this is yet one more instance of the Trump admin distorting facts in order to cover for the president politically, presenting ‘alternative facts’ in Kellyanne Conway’s language, and now it’s affecting the weather.”
Former NOAA general counsel Monica Medina added: “This matters because the president’s changing of that weather map really crossed a line in terms of the sanctity of the weather forecast. It’s important that NWS speak with one voice, in unison, because they communicate to all the weather forecasters out there in the country.”
Notes and quotes
— Oliver Darcy tweeted
: “Trump’s attempt to destroy the truth is the BIG story of his admin. He’s repeatedly beating up the system, hoping it falls in line. It’s Orwellian. It’s a serious issue. It shouldn’t be swept under the rug. It’s not about a sharpie. It’s about an effort to destroy the truth.”
— CNN’s Chris Cillizza in Monday’s The Point newsletter
: The truly insidious thing re: Trump’s disregard for truth is “about the culture that disregard for truth creates. And how not telling the truth becomes incentivized in an upside-down world where whatever Trump says must be agreed to solely because he is Trump.”
Trump’s Monday night rally in one sentence
The sentence comes from
the AP’s Jonathan Lemire and Alan Fram: “Trying to prove his political clout by pushing a Republican to victory in a special election, President Donald Trump used a North Carolina rally on Monday to paint a bleak picture of a nation that he claimed would be overrun with crime, poverty and immigrants if Democrats seize power in Washington.”
FOR THE RECORD
— Margaret Atwood’s “The Testaments”
is firmly at the top of Amazon’s best sellers list ahead of the book’s release on Tuesday.
— Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey’s “She Said”
is also in the top 10.
— Apple’s product launch event is at 1pm ET / 10am PT Tuesday.. Here’s what to expect.
— MSNBC is celebrating
the 11th anniversary of “The Rachel Maddow Show.” Maddow debuted on 9/8/2008.
— Maddow’s 9pm rival on CNN, Chris Cuomo, tweeted
: “We are in a tough business at a tough time and to make it is rare; to make a mark is more rare; to create a standard is almost impossible. @maddow is at the top for a reason. 11 years is very impressive. #Congrats”