After Slamming Trump for Sharpie Mark , CNN Forced To Apologize over Mislabeled Map


Officials in the Bahamas have said that the death toll from Hurricane Dorian will be “staggering.” It’s still heading north and whipping the Carolinas, making landfall Friday morning over Cape Hatteras.

But please, let’s all stop and have a discussion about whether or not it was President Donald Trump or someone on his staff who used a Sharpie marker to extend the possible “cone of uncertainty” into Alabama and what it might possibly mean.

In case you missed this because you’ve been paying attention to actual coverage of the storm or you have anything better to do, the president used a map on which someone apparently used a marker to show that the storm might hit Alabama during a news conference Wednesday.

This came after Trump had said the storm might hit Alabama, saying that he knew “that Alabama was in the original forecast.” The National Weather Service in Birmingham seemed to contradict him on Twitter, and cue po-faced reports like this one from ABC News by people who ought to have realized perhaps this wasn’t the part of the story they should have been emphasizing:

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And then there was this from Business Insider: “People on the internet seized on the incident and submitted their own memes of doctored images with a black marker. But Trump’s alleged edit of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration map could bear serious consequences after some legal experts pointed out it may have violated federal guidelines.”

They were talking about 18 US Code § 2074, which states that “whoever knowingly issues or publishes any counterfeit weather forecast or warning of weather conditions falsely representing such forecast or warning to have been issued or published by the Weather Bureau, United States Signal Service, or other branch of the Government service, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ninety days, or both.”

Do you think "Sharpie-gate" is a non-story?

In short, Rep. Jerrold Nadler is probably considering an impeachment inquiry, knowing him.

We’ll get to how false Trump’s alleged weather forecast was in a moment, but let’s first go to CNN, which has breathlessly reported Sharpie-gate since its beginnings.

Here was a CNN map of Hurricane Dorian’s effects pointed out by White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham:

Yes, that’s Mississippi in place of Alabama.

“Hi @CNN, I know you guys are busy analyzing lines on a map, but perhaps you use your time to study up on U.S. geography?” Grisham wrote.

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Here was CNN when they were forced to apologize:

We’ve come a long way from James Earl Jones intoning “This … is CNN” to the network sending out tweets where you can almost see the person who fired it off immediately standing up, hands raised above his head, clutching his Microsoft Surface, yelling, “Oh! Would you like some ice with that sick burn, Stephanie? Would you? Are you not entertained?”

Now, granted, Grisham delivered her response with more than a soupçon of sarcasm involved, but that’s because CNN has actively been covering this Sharpie/map story as if it were on par with the hurricane itself.

Trump, for his part, has still noted that initial forecasts showed there was a chance that Alabama might be hit by the storm.

CNN, however, said that “spaghetti plots like the one Trump tweeted are not forecasts. Instead, they show raw output from a computer model, with their data taken into account by the National Hurricane Center meteorologists who issue the official center forecast.

“Additionally, spaghetti model projections from Sunday — when Trump first tweeted about Alabama potentially being in Dorian’s path — didn’t include any potential track for the storm to hit Alabama.

“Text at the bottom of the map Trump tweeted states, ‘If anything on this graphic causes confusion, ignore the entire product.’ It also says National Hurricane Center statements ‘supersede this product.'”

This … is CNN.

Here’s the paradox of this whole non-story: If you believe that the president should give it up, you ought to believe the media should give it up as well.

There was an off chance that the hurricane would affect Alabama, albeit not to the extent the president said. It wasn’t a huge one, but it existed.

Whether or not Trump drew on a map to make a point when he should have pulled an Elsa and let it go is thoroughly irrelevant when you consider how much digital ink has been expended on l’affaire Sharpie. If you don’t believe me, take this piece from The Wall Street Journal, normally one of the more sober sources when it comes to covering politics and the White House.

“You can’t make this up,” Spencer Jakab reported late Thursday morning.

“Newell Brands, the company that makes Sharpie markers, got an overnight surge in popularity following President Trump’s use of an apparently altered weather map to support his assertion that Alabama was in the path of Hurricane Dorian. The @Sharpie Twitter account, which last tweeted on Aug. 23 and had shed 172 followers in the past month, gained nearly 700 in 16 hours, according to Social Blade.”

Even if you could make this up, why would you want to? Why would you want to report any of this? The number of newsroom hours used to cover whether or not the president decided to get one over on the National Weather Service with a black marker could have easily been dedicated to the hurricane itself.

If that wasn’t a priority for CNN, perhaps the time could have been used for remedial staff training in which someone with a laser pointer stood in front of a room with a map of the South. The trainer would point to Alabama and have everyone say what that state’s name was. They would then move the laser pointer over to Mississippi and repeat the process. I mean, if they had enough time on their hands, they could probably expand the map and go through all 50 of the suckers.

Then again, given that these are people preternaturally fascinated with a Sharpie mark on a weather forecast map, I’d just stick with two states for now.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture