In an article published this week, The New York Times cited anonymous sources within the Trump administration who claimed that Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross threatened to fire National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officials.
The alleged threat was made against NOAA officials responsible for weather forecasts after the agency’s Birmingham, Alabama, office contradicted President Donald Trump’s claim that Hurricane Dorian could hit the state of Alabama.
The agency disavowed the National Weather Service’s position that Alabama was at risk of being hit by Hurricane Dorian, which the Times said “caused widespread anger within the agency.”
The Department of Commerce oversees NOAA and the department’s inspector general is reviewing the disavowal document because the agency “must maintain standards of scientific integrity,” as Inspector General Peggy Gustafson said.
The Department of Commerce pushed back against the Times’s sources and said in part, through a spokesman, “Secretary Ross did not threaten to fire any NOAA staff over forecasting and public statements about Hurricane Dorian.” It is another example of the Trump administration contradicting mainstream media reporting and pushing back against the media narrative about the administration’s alleged internal chaos and dysfunction.
Adding to the pushback, the Times quoted an anonymous Trump administration official who said it was the Birmingham office which politicized the matter to begin with and that “NOAA had simply done the responsible thing and corrected the record.”
The same official said the Birmingham office was “motivated by a desire to embarrass the president more than concern for the safety of people in Alabama.”
Without an administration official going on the record about the alleged firing threat at NOAA, there is no clarity on the controversy and therefore the issue will be unresolved. The anonymous sourcing portrays the Trump administration in a negative light, which could be perceived as anti-Trump media bias.