Late Thursday afternoon, monstrous Hurricane Matthew was just hours away from a likely devastating impact with Florida. It was a time when meteorologists, emergency managers and politicians of all persuasions were joining to deliver a simple, clear message in the spirit of keeping people safe: Take this storm seriously, and prepare.
Yet the popular Drudge Report website, visited by a massive audience, including vulnerable Floridians, was casting doubt on the severity of the Category 4 storm. In big, bold all-capital letters, it said the storm was “ragged” and suggested it could be fizzling. It made this proclamation at the same time the National Hurricane Center was calling for “potentially disastrous impacts” in Florida.
Drudge’s contradictory message was not only infuriating to meteorologists who knew the dangerous storm was holding its own, but it may also have put people’s lives at risk.
For Florida residents who were perhaps on the fence about whether to evacuate at the last minute, the words on that website may have introduced enough doubt to lead them into a decision they will regret.
To make matters worse, Drudge took to Twitter and accused the government of purposefully inflating Matthew’s intensity to send a message about climate change.
“The deplorables are starting to wonder if govt has been lying to them about Hurricane Matthew intensity to make exaggerated point on climate,” Matt Drudge, who runs the Drudge Report, tweeted.
This is an incredible and offensive accusation. The National Hurricane Center is the government agency responsible for determining hurricane intensity and it is apolitical as it gets. The scientists working there are obsessive about scientific accuracy and integrity and have deservedly earned a tremendous amount of public trust.
Moreover, trying to score political points ahead of a destructive storm when lives are at risk is unbelievably tacky.
As Weather Channel President Dave Clark tweeted, “Not now.”
A number of highly respected meteorologists were rightly incensed about Drudge’s comments and sent him a message of their own on Twitter. I’ll give them the last words: