Accuracy in Media

Despite initial accusations against President Donald Trump having backfired, the New York Times and Washington Post have doubled down yet again.

The New York Times reported that Trump “pressed aides to intervene with a federal scientific agency.” The Washington Post reported that Trump “told his staff that the nation’s leading weather forecasting agency needed to correct a statement that contradicted a tweet the president had sent wrongly claiming that Hurricane Dorian threatened Alabama.”

But nearly two weeks after Hurricane Dorian began to threaten the southeastern U.S., both continue to mischaracterize the original story and neither had found a single White House official to go on the record to support its contentions the president bullied scientific agencies into misleading the American public about the path of the storm, nor any evidence the president is not telling the truth when he says no such thing happened.

Both the Times and the Post mischaracterized the incident from the start.

“President Trump told his staff that the nation’s leading weather forecasting agency needed to correct a statement that contradicted a tweet the president had sent wrongly claiming that Hurricane Dorian threatened Alabama, senior administration officials said,” read the Post’s lead on “Trump pushed staff to deal with NOAA tweet that contradicted his inaccurate Alabama hurricane claim, officials say” – subhead: “Lawmakers, Commerce Department launch investigations into NOAA’s decision to back the president over forecasters.”

The Times had a similar take in “Trump Pressed Top Aide to Have Weather Service ‘Clarify’ Forecast That Contradicted Trump” by Peter Baker, Lisa Friedman and Christopher Flavelle.

“President Trump, seeking to justify his claim of a hurricane threat to Alabama, pressed aides to intervene with a federal scientific agency, leading to a highly unusual public rebuke of the forecasters who contradicted him, according to people familiar with events,” the Times’ piece began.

The Times’ second paragraph continued to mislead. “In response to the president’s request [that the agencies involved set the record straight], Mick Mulaney, the acting White House chief of staff, told Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary, to have the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration publicly correct the forecasters, who had insisted that Alabama was not actually at risk from Hurricane Dorian.”

The National Weather Service’s Birmingham office did tweet that “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.”

Trump has not disputed or attempted to alter the work of weather experts. His only point is that the early predictions he was working from did include Alabama – and the facts bear him out.

Forecasters did have Alabama on the list of states that should be concerned about the arrival of Hurricane Dorian. The Alabama National Guard tweeted that it had begun to prepare for the storm. Numerous forecasts placed at least parts of Alabama in the potential path of the storm under some predicted scenarios, although by the time the president began to warn Alabama, the storm appeared to have changed course and no longer threatened the state.

The Birmingham tweet came out after the president had mentioned Alabama as a possible target for the storm but before he had realized the storm had changed course. NOAA later issued a statement saying the Birmingham office had declared the state was free from danger before forecasters had concluded the storm would not reach there.

The “senior administration official” the Times claims to be quoting “said Mr. Trump told his staff to have NOAA ‘clarify’ the forecasters’ position.”

The Post’s case that Trump is not being honest seems to be based on the fact that Democrats have indicated they plan to investigate.

“Trump told reporters Wednesday afternoon that he did not direct NOAA to issue such a statement. ‘No, I never did that,’” he said. ‘I never did that. It’s a hoax by the media. That’s just fake news.’”

But the political pressure on a group of scientists who are supposed to be independent led House Democrats on Tuesday to launch an investigation into the Commerce Department’s involvement …”

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