As Hurricane Dorian unleashed torrential rains on the Carolinas on Thursday, President Trump continued to push his erroneous contention from the weekend that Alabama could have been affected by the life-threatening storm.
The White House also issued a statement from Coast Guard Rear Adm. Peter Brown, Trump’s homeland security and counterterrorism adviser, defending the president’s comments about Alabama. The statement prompted some to question the White House’s priorities as Dorian was wreaking devastation in the southeast.
In morning tweets, Trump insisted that what he first said in a Sunday tweet was accurate at the time and attacked the news media.
“What I said was accurate! All Fake News in order to demean!” Trump wrote.
He later returned to the topic, sharing a tweet in which the Alabama National Guard had said that Dorian was “projected to reach southern Alabama by the early part of the week.”
“I was with you all the way Alabama,” Trump said in the early evening tweet. “The Fake News Media was not!”
Trump’s latest tweets on the subject came a day after he attempted to retroactively justify his Sunday tweet by displaying in the Oval Office a modified National Hurricane Center “cone of uncertainty” forecast, dated Aug. 29, indicating Alabama could in fact be affected. The graphic appeared to have been altered with a Sharpie to indicate a risk that the storm would move into Alabama from Florida.
“In the early days of the hurricane, when it was predicted that Dorian would go through Miami or West Palm Beach, even before it reached the Bahamas, certain models strongly suggested that Alabama & Georgia would be hit as it made its way through Florida & to the Gulf,” Trump said in his Thursday tweets. “Instead it turned North and went up the coast, where it continues now. In the one model through Florida, the Great State of Alabama would have been hit or grazed. In the path it took, no.”
Trump’s tweet Sunday listed Alabama among states that he said “will most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated.”
It came as Dorian was hitting the Bahamas as a high-end Category 5 hurricane, and the tweet sparked enough public alarm that it prompted the National Weather Service in Birmingham, Ala., to bluntly tweet 20 minutes later: “Alabama will NOT see any impacts from #Dorian.”
On Thursday morning, Trump also retweeted a map he shared on Twitter on Wednesday. It showed raw computer model data provided to state and local governments four days before his Alabama tweet.
The data showed that the majority of models called for Dorian to make landfall well southeast of Alabama, most likely in Florida. By the time of his controversial tweet on Sunday, the projections on that map showing potential impacts on Alabama had long been ruled out.
Later Thursday morning, Trump retweeted tweets sent by the National Hurricane Center with updates on Dorian and other looming storms.
He then returned once again to the subject of Alabama.
“Alabama was going to be hit or grazed, and then Hurricane Dorian took a different path (up along the East Coast),” Trump wrote on Twitter. “The Fake News knows this very well. That’s why they’re the Fake News!”
On Thursday evening, he tweeted more maps from last week. Those maps projected that parts of Alabama had at least a 5 percent chance of receiving tropical-storm-force-winds.
The White House then released a statement from Brown, Trump’s homeland security and counterterrorism adviser, specifically addressing Trump’s comments about Alabama.
Brown noted that he had briefed Trump on Sunday morning and said that in recent days, he had reviewed with the president maps showing “possible storm impacts well outside the official forecast cone.”
“While speaking to the press on Sunday, September 1, the President addressed Hurricane Dorian and its potential impact on multiple states, including Alabama,” Brown said. “The President’s comments were based on that morning’s Hurricane Dorian briefing, which included the possibility of tropical storm force winds in southeastern Alabama.”
Trump’s continued focus on Alabama prompted some to question his priorities.
“While Carolinas prepare for #Dorian, while US Coast Guard conducts rescue operations in Bahamas, Trump keeps to obsessively tweet about Alabama,” Republican strategist Ana Navarro, a vocal Trump critic, tweeted Thursday night.
In addition to his Sunday tweet, Trump had also referenced Alabama twice in remarks to reporters later that morning and afternoon.
In an exchange outside the White House after returning from Camp David, Trump told reporters: “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.”
Then, at the beginning of a briefing on the hurricane Sunday afternoon, he brought up the state again.
“And, I will say, the states — and it may get a little piece of a great place: It’s called Alabama,” he said. “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.”
Trump’s insistence that he was correct prompted widespread criticism that neither the president nor his White House is willing to admit mistakes.
Late Thursday morning, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham ribbed CNN about a map that was part of its storm coverage that mistakenly labeled Alabama as Mississippi.
“Hi @CNN, I know you guys are busy analyzing lines on a map, but perhaps you use your time to study up on U.S. geography?” Grisham wrote on Twitter.
CNN responded early Thursday afternoon.
“Thanks, Stephanie,” the network’s communications team said in a tweet. “Yes, we made a mistake (which we fixed in less than 30 seconds). And now we are admitting it. You all should try it sometime.”
Matthew Cappucci and Andrew Freedman contributed to this report.