He falsely claimed that Hurricane Dorian was likely to hit Alabama.
Then he repeated the claim after the National Weather Service debunked it.
Then he insisted that the media, not him, was in the wrong.
Then, to try to prove his point, he showed the media an outdated map that had clearly been altered.
Then, trying again, he tweeted out an unaltered map that was too old to prove his point.
Then, trying again again, he tweeted out some more old maps.
Finally, Trump got his homeland security adviser to issue a statement vouching for him.
Over five days, President Donald Trump delivered a barrage of inaccurate and confusing statements about Dorian – aggressively defending his original false claim by being repeatedly dishonest about what it was he had originally said.
We have laid out the fiasco for you, comment by comment.
Sunday, September 1, 10:51 AM:
Trump starts the controversy with a tweet. “In addition to Florida - South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama, will most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated,” he says.
This is important: Trump’s first claim is that Alabama, among other states, is now likely to be hit worse than earlier forecasts had suggested.
Except the opposite is true.
There was a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecast, from two days earlier, that had found a tiny portion of southeastern Alabama might be affected by Dorian. (The “cone of uncertainty” extended a few miles into the state.)
But current NOAA forecasts at the time of Trump’s tweet showed the storm not impacting the state at all, since it was moving north instead of west.
Sunday, September 1, 11:11 AM:
The Birmingham, Alabama, Twitter account for NOAA’s National Weather Service tweets that Alabama will not be affected by the storm: “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.”
Sunday, September 1, 11:14 AM:
Trump speaks to reporters outside the White House. He again alludes to supposed new information about how Alabama is going to be affected by the storm. Again, there is no such information from NOAA.
“The original course was dead into Florida. Now it seems to be going up to toward South Carolina, toward North Carolina. Georgia is going to be hit. Alabama is going to get a piece of it, it looks like,” he says.
Sunday, September 1, 12:31 PM:
Trump speaks at a briefing at Federal Emergency Management Agency headquarters. He again refers to supposed new information that “just came up, unfortunately,” about a possible impact on Alabama.
“And, I will say, the states – and it may get a little piece of a great place: It’s called Alabama. And Alabama could even be in for at least some very strong winds and something more than that, it could be. This just came up, unfortunately. It’s the size of – the storm that we’re talking about. So, for Alabama, just please be careful also,” he says.
There is, again, no current NOAA forecast that shows Alabama is likely to be impacted.
Monday, September 2, 7:16 PM:
Trump tweets criticism of ABC News chief White House correspondent Jonathan Karl for his reporting on this saga.
Trump argues that he was correct in his Sunday remarks – because “certain original scenarios” had suggested Alabama could be affected. But that claim is plainly contradicted by all three of his Sunday comments, in which he had suggested he was referring to new information.
Wednesday, September 4, 2:38 PM:
Appearing in the Oval Office, Trump displays a NOAA forecast from the morning of August 29 – which has been altered with a crudely drawn black line that takes the hurricane forecast into Alabama. The unaltered version of that map did not have the black line and did not suggest any storm impact on Alabama.
Trump says “Alabama was in the original forecast,” again ignoring that the state had not been in the forecast at the time he made his Sunday comments. And he says, “In all cases, Alabama was hit – if not lightly, in some cases pretty hard. Georgia, Alabama – it was a different route. They actually gave that a 95% chance – probability.”
It is not clear who “they” are or what precisely he is saying “they” said had a 95% chance. NOAA never gave the storm a 95% chance of hitting Alabama.
Wednesday, September 4, 6:23 PM:
Trump tweets a map from the South Florida Water Management District, which shows lines extending into Alabama. The map is a so-called spaghetti model – containing projections from computer models that meteorologists incorporate in the creation of their forecasts – not a forecast itself. It is dated August 28, four days before Trump’s Sunday comments.
He says: “This was the originally projected path of the Hurricane in its early stages. As you can see, almost all models predicted it to go through Florida also hitting Georgia and Alabama. I accept the Fake News apologies!”
There are a bunch of problems here.
Again, the map is not a forecast; it is raw information used to make forecasts. Again, Trump was not talking about days-old forecasts when he made the Sunday comments on which the media reported.
The map is from a local entity, not NOAA’s National Hurricane Center – and the map itself says that National Hurricane Center advisories “supersede” what the map shows.
And it is not true that “almost all models” showed the storm going through Alabama. In fact, only a small minority of early models showed the storm going through any part of Alabama. Trump has shown no evidence that any spaghetti model at the time of his comments showed any impact on Alabama.
Thursday, September 5, 10:16 AM:
Eric Trump, the President’s son, tweets another map from days before his father’s Sunday comments.
This map, from NOAA and dated August 29, is about tropical storm-force winds. It shows that three days before the President’s Sunday remarks, southeastern Alabama was given a 5% to 20% chance of experiencing tropical storm-force winds over the next five days, while much of the state was given a 0% chance.
Other states that at least one NOAA forecast gave at least a 5% chance of experiencing tropical storm-force winds included New York, New Jersey and Delaware, which the President has not mentioned at any point of his Dorian musings.
Thursday, September 5, 7:48 AM:
Trump tweets again to criticize “fake news” and defend himself. This time, he says he had been referring to “certain models” when he made his comments: “In the one model through Florida, the Great State of Alabama would have been hit or grazed.”
You know what we’re going to say. The models that showed Alabama being “grazed” were out of date at the time he spoke on Sunday.
Thursday, September 5, 1:03 PM:
The South Florida Water Management District sends a statement to CNN to explain that it produces “hundreds” of spaghetti plots per day. “The plots are refreshed every 15 minutes to capture updates in the publicly sourced data used to produce the plots,” the district says.
Thursday, September 5, 4:44 PM:
Trump tweets some more NOAA maps from August 29 and August 30, three days and two days before his Sunday remarks.
“Just as I said, Alabama was originally projected to be hit. The Fake News denies it!” he says.
These maps, however, showed that no part of Alabama was forecast – even days before Trump’s Sunday remarks – to have more than a 30% chance of getting tropical storm-force winds. For most of the state, the chances were 0% to 20%.
And, again, this is not what Trump said Sunday. Those remarks, the ones covered by the media, were about alleged new information, not about original projections.
Thursday, September 5, 5:31 PM:
The White House issues a statement from Trump’s homeland security adviser, Coast Guard Rear Adm. Peter Brown. Brown says Trump had made his Sunday comments after Brown gave the President a hurricane briefing that “included the possibility of tropical storm force winds in southeastern Alabama.” Brown adds that NOAA forecasts all the way through Monday, September 2, showed “the possibility” of such winds hitting “parts of Alabama.”
On Sunday and Monday, however, the forecasts gave only a sliver of Alabama a mere 5% to 10% chance of experiencing tropical storm-force winds.