Trump’s NOAA Pick, Barry Myers, Asks to Withdraw Nomination

Barry Lee Myers, whose nomination by President Trump to lead the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration remained unconfirmed by the Senate for more than two years, asked the White House this week to withdraw it, saying that surgery and chemotherapy made it “impractical” for him to serve.

Mr. Myers, the former chief executive of AccuWeather, a private forecasting company that relies largely on data from NOAA, was first nominated by Mr. Trump in 2017. But the nomination stalled in the Senate, leaving NOAA without a Senate-confirmed leader for the longest period since the agency was created in 1970.

Democrats had argued that Mr. Myers’s ties to AccuWeather would be a conflict of interest. Mr. Myers stepped down as chief executive in January 2019, but the company, founded by his brother, is still family-run. Mr. Myers’s brother is the current chief executive.

Democrats also criticized Mr. Myers’s previous eagerness to privatize NOAA’s National Weather Service and to fight government programs that would compete with AccuWeather services.

The White House confirmed on Thursday evening that Mr. Myers had asked for the nomination to be withdrawn but did not answer questions about why.

Mr. Myers could not immediately be reached for comment on Thursday.

In an emailed statement about his decision, first reported by The Washington Times on Wednesday, Mr. Myers blamed Senate Democrats for delaying his confirmation because he supported the Trump administration.

“My wife, my children and I have been unmercifully attacked by false news stories,” Mr. Myers said. “None of this has discouraged me from serving this administration; in fact, all of these obstacles only increased my resolve to be confirmed.”

But he said that his “medical issues have made service to the nation impractical at this time.”

At a confirmation hearing in 2017, Mr. Myers acknowledged that humans are the primary cause of global warming. He said he supported the federal scientific reports on climate science, which Mr. Trump has said he does not believe.

Mr. Myers was featured last month on an episode of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight” with John Oliver, who highlighted his ties to AccuWeather.

NOAA is responsible for understanding and predicting changes in the Earth’s climate. It monitors oceans, helps coastal communities protect themselves from storms and manages fisheries. The agency’s data helps create weather forecasts for severe events like hurricanes.

The agency found itself at the center of a political firestorm in September when a National Weather Service forecasting office in Alabama assured residents that a hurricane would not hit the state, contradicting Mr. Trump’s insistence that it would.

NOAA then rebuked the Weather Service scientists, leading to criticism that the scientific agency had been politicized. The New York Times reported this month that emails and documents showed that NOAA knew the hurricane would not hit Alabama when it chastised the scientists.

Jack Begg contributed research.