(CNN) - The New York Times is reporting that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross threatened to fire top National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration employees if they didn’t disavow a tweet contradicting President Donald Trump.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross threatened to fire people at NOAA after they initially refused to contradict NWS Birmingham's tweet saying Alabama was not under a threat from Hurricane Dorian.
Last week, Trump falsely claimed that Hurricane Dorian was forecast to hit Alabama.
The National Weather Service office in Birmingham later tweeted that Dorian was no threat to the state.
According to three people cited in the Times report on Monday, Ross called the acting NOAA administrator and told him to fix the National Weather Service’s contradiction of Trump’s claim.
The Times says that, when the administrator opposed the demand, Ross told him NOAA’s political staff would be fired.
NOAA later published an unsigned statement confirming Trump’s claims and disavowing the tweet from National Weather Service Birmingham about the storm.
A Commerce Department spokesperson denied the story.
The story comes a day after a NOAA official said he will investigate whether the agency violated its own ethics by supporting Trump’s tweets about the hurricane over its experts.
In remarks Tuesday, NOAA acting administrator Neil Jacobs attempted both praised the NWS Birmingham office and explained what was meant by the clarification published by NOAA, the Associated Press reported.
Jacobs, who was speaking at the National Weather Association in Huntsville, Ala., said NOAA’s statement was meant to clear up technical aspects of the forecast but didn’t take into account the Birmingham office’s “good intent” of stopping fears and rumors associated with the storm.
He appeared near tears at one point, the Associated Press reported.
Weather officials said they didn’t realize the rumors and fears were stirred by Trump’s tweet.
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