WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
- Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross allegedly threatened to fire NOAA employees if they didn’t retract a tweet that contradicted President Donald Trump’s false claim that Hurricane Dorian will likely hit Alabama.
- A NOAA official has since declared that he will investigate a possible ethics violation by the agency for supporting Trump’s tweets instead of its experts.
- Several members of the House and Senate have since called for Ross’ resignation.
The New York Times reported on Monday that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross threatened to fire National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration employees if they didn’t retract a tweet from the National Weather Service’s Alabama office — a tweet that contradicted President Donald Trump’s false claim that Hurricane Dorian will likely hit the state.
Three sources told the Times that Ross ordered acting NOAA Administrator Neil Jacobs to retract the contradiction of Trump’s claim. When Jacobs disagreed, Ross reportedly threatened to fire NOAA’s political staff.
It was apparently Ross’ threat that prompted NOAA to disavow the said tweet on Friday.
Meanwhile, a Commerce Department spokesperson denied the incident, saying, “The New York Times story is false. Secretary Ross did not threaten to fire any NOAA staff over forecasting and public statements about Hurricane Dorian.”
Trump’s false claim that Hurricane Dorian would affect Alabama caused confusion last week.
According to the Washington Post, the NWS promptly sent a memo to its staff to direct the focus away from “national-level social media posts,” referring to Trump’s claims.
A NOAA official has since declared that he will investigate a possible ethics violation by the agency for supporting Trump’s tweets instead of its experts.
Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), a member of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, condemned Ross for threatening to fire employees “for doing their jobs by accurately reporting the weather,” and called for the Commerce secretary’s resignation.
Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, also said during CNN’s The Situation Room on Monday that Ross should resign if the Times report is accurate.
Himes argued that the situation should be taken seriously because NOAA is relied upon for information on potential disaster threats. He declared, “If the commerce secretary is saying I don’t care what’s true, here is what the President wants, he needs to go and he needs to go yesterday.”
Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), who is also the previous Commerce Committee chairman, told CNN, “We want the weather service to operate with integrity and without bias.”
The claims of threatened firing have not yet been officially confirmed by members of the Commerce Department and NOAA.