Washington (AFP) – Six days and President Donald Trump is still trying to persuade the world he was right about Hurricane Dorian hitting Alabama.
He has insisted via Twitter to his more than 60 million followers. He has brandished a mysteriously-altered weather map in the Oval Office. He has deployed a rear admiral.
And on Friday — on a day when survivors in the Bahamas and other places where the hurricane actually did hit were trying to rebuild their lives — the US president once more took to Twitter to argue about Alabama.
The media “went Crazy, hoping against hope that I made a mistake (which I didn’t),” he wrote. “Still without an apology.”
The spat might seem insignificant as one of the most powerful Atlantic hurricanes on record wheels up the edge of the US east coast after pulverizing the Bahamas.
But in terms of attention given by Trump, what’s become known as “Sharpie-gate” is no sideshow.
The bizarre tale began when Trump tweeted on Sunday that Alabama was among the states facing damage from the still approaching Dorian and would “most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated.”
However, forecasters had already put Alabama in the clear.
Minutes after Trump’s alarming tweet, the National Weather Service counter-tweeted: “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.”
– Back down? Double down? –
Opponents of Trump pounced on the mistake. Trump, as he usually does, doubled down.
Over and over this week he kept talking about Alabama, even when no other officials did, and he raged at the media for pointing out that Alabama still hadn’t been hit and, in fact, never had been in real danger.
On Wednesday, the back-and-forth took a still more curious turn.
In the Oval Office, Trump showed off a weather map showing an earlier — now completely out of date — forecast of Dorian’s track that predicted the storm passing right across Florida, rather than turning up the coast.
Added to the end of the path? A large bulge, apparently drawn in black Sharpie pen, that extended the storm deep into Alabama.
Facing even more derision from TV comedians, satirists and Democratic opponents, Trump once more doubled down.
Late Thursday, the White House sent out the copy of a somber letter by Rear Admiral Peter Brown — Trump’s counter-terrorism adviser — saying that back on Sunday he’d been the one to brief the president on Alabama being a possible target.
In his latest salvo Friday, Trump accused the media of being “fixated” on the issue.
“This nonsense has never happened to another President,” he said.