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Science & Environment

Trump Continues False Messaging On Hurricane's Path

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Here in the U.S., Hurricane Dorian is battering South Carolina, and it is expected to continue traveling northwest up the coast. Alabama is not in the path of the storm, and yet this week President Trump has tweeted more about Alabama than about South Carolina. He has said repeatedly that Alabama was projected to be in Dorian's path. He went so far as to hold up a map that had been modified with a marker to show the storm headed to Alabama.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: It was going to hit not only Florida but Georgia. It could have - was going toward the Gulf. That was what was originally projected.

KELLY: So why is the president still talking about a state where the storm is not headed even after being corrected by the National Weather Service? Well, let's ask NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith. Hey there.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Hi.

KELLY: Hi. Why is the president focused on Alabama?

KEITH: So this all started with an error. President Trump was at FEMA getting a briefing on the storm on Sunday. And he said something that may have been true a few days earlier, but it simply wasn't true at the time that he said it.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMP: 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, the size of the storm that we're talking about. So for Alabama, just please be careful also.

KEITH: Now, the National Weather Service Birmingham quickly tweeted that Alabama would not see any impacts from Dorian. And then it sort of snowballed in the way that things snowball in this administration. So there was news coverage of the president's odd mention of Alabama.

Then the president started tweeting in response to the news coverage. That all led to that weird incident in the Oval Office with the president holding up a modified map, which, of course, led to more coverage, which led to the president tweeting about it today. He tweeted, what I said was accurate, all fake news in order to demean.

So although there are parts of the U.S. that right now are being affected by this hurricane in a very real way, the president has turned this into a conversation about Alabama and about the media.

KELLY: Yeah. And that modified map, you could - it was - the circle where the storm was headed was extended to include a little southeast chunk of Alabama. So how is the president explaining this? What is the White House saying?

KEITH: Well, he is insisting that Alabama was part of the original forecast. And I went up to Stephanie Grisham's office today, the press secretary. She showed me yet another map that showed some winds possibly affecting Alabama. But even if Alabama was predicted to get some strong winds or effects early on, by the time the president was talking about it, he was talking about days old information.

KELLY: The question, I suppose, is, does this matter? I mean, this would not be the first time that the president has bent the facts to suit his purposes.

KEITH: Right. There was the crowd size at his inauguration, his claims of voter fraud. There are a number of cases like this where President Trump says something that's not true or not accurate and then just digs in. The question is, you know, does it matter? Do we need a shared set of facts in this country? And what happens if it is about something that's more - matters more than a silly map?

KELLY: Right, people trying to figure out whether they should evacuate, that type of thing. Thank you very much, Tam.

KEITH: Thank you.

KELLY: White House correspondent Tamara Keith. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.