“Yes, that was doctored,” Mr. Pieper replied.
Two days later, after Mr. Trump had continued to insist on Twitter that he was right about Alabama lying in Hurricane Dorian’s path, NOAA issued its unsigned statement rebuking Birmingham forecasters. Staff hit back immediately.
“You are not going to believe this BULL,” Maureen O’Leary, a longtime public affairs specialist at NOAA, wrote to a colleague. She followed up, relaying some of the most choice public comments she was finding including, “Should I call the White House for my weather forecasts from now on?”, adding an expletive.
Others made their concerns about the situation known to those higher in the chain of command.
“This statement is deeply upsetting to NOAA employees that have worked the hurricane and not fully accurate based on the timeline in question,” Alek Krautmann, who works with NOAA’s satellite and information service office, told communications officials.
Craig McLean, NOAA’s acting chief scientist who later filed a complaint with the agency alleging the unsigned statement violated its scientific-integrity policy, took his concerns straight to the top.
“What’s next? Climate science is a hoax?” he asked in an email sent to Mr. Jacobs and other top political appointees at NOAA and the Commerce Department. “Flabbergasted to leave our forecasters hanging in the political wind.” He signed off, “Embarrassed, Craig.”
Mr. Jacobs, who has since been nominated to formally lead the agency, spent several days afterward trying to calm the waters.
Gary Shigenaka, a NOAA marine biologist, emailed Mr. Jacobs urging him to address “this crisis of moral leadership our agency is facing” and asking for reassurance that “we are not mere pawns in an absurd game” pitting science against politics.
“You have no idea how hard I’m fighting to keep politics out of science,” Mr. Jacobs replied.
Lisa Friedman and Mark Walker reported from Washington, and John Schwartz from New York.