Sharpiegate – Trump’s Assault on Scientific Expertise

Trump lies so often, so irresponsibly, so ruthlessly, that the American people have become numb to the assault on truth. Remarkably, Trump’s lies are frequently casual, random, non-ideological, and wanton. When the lies are about scientifically verifiable processes and outcomes, the lies are particularly reprehensible because they further dumb the American people’s shaky aptitude for scientific discourse.

Take Trump’s lie last September that Hurricane Dorian would hit Alabama much harder than had been anticipated. Thousands of lies later, perhaps only a few may remember the doctored weather map, on which a falsified projection had been drawn with a sharpie pen, to suggest that the hurricane was moving towards southeastern Alabama. A few days later, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued a statement that purported to support Trump’s bogus forecast.[1]

Now, almost a year later, the Inspector General for the Commerce Department, Peggy Gustafson, has issued a report that lambasts the White House (Trump and cronies) for pressuring the NOAA into issuing its unscientific, unsupportable statement.[2] The Inspector General found that the NOAA had politicized a straightforward scientific assessment, backed the Trumpian forecast, criticized the agency’s own scientists, and eroded public trust in the agency, by succumbing to pressure from the White House.

Of course, 40 percent of the United States’ electorate will not care, as long as they have their theocracy. Ms. Gustafson’s days are numbered, even as the End Times draw nigh for Trump. You may not need a weatherman to know which way the blows, but you do if you want to know which way the wind will blow.

Remember, that 40 percent could be on your jury. And there may be another 40% that blows the other way. Sharpiegate is a poignant reminder that abuse of science occurs in all three branches of government.

[1]  Andrew Freedman & Jason Samenow, “Investigation rebukes Commerce Department for siding with Trump over forecasters during Hurricane Dorian: Report confirms Commerce officials responded to orders from the White House,” Wash. Post (July 9, 2020).

[2]  Gustafson, Evaluation of NOAA’s September 6, 2019, Statement about Hurricane Dorian Forecasts (June 26, 2019).

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