President Donald Trump ridiculed a media report on Monday that alleged he had considered using a nuclear device to stop deadly hurricanes from reaching the United States.
Axios on Sunday reported that in multiple instances Trump had suggested using nuclear bombs to stop hurricanes before they reached the mainland.
The report did not name the source of its account, but said it was based on “sources who have heard the president’s private remarks and been briefed on a National Security Council memorandum that recorded those comments.”
Trump, however, vehemently denied the report.
“The story by Axios that President Trump wanted to blow up large hurricanes with nuclear weapons prior to reaching shore is ridiculous. I never said this. Just more FAKE NEWS!” Trump tweeted early Monday morning.
The story by Axios that President Trump wanted to blow up large hurricanes with nuclear weapons prior to reaching shore is ridiculous. I never said this. Just more FAKE NEWS!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 26, 2019
The Axios report paraphrased Trump’s comments but used quotation marks in writing them.
“I got it. I got it. Why don’t we nuke them?” Trump said, according to one source who was there.
Axios said that on another occasion, Trump spoke about the use of bombs to stop a hurricane, citing a 2017 NSC memo. On that occasion, he did not specify that he was talking about nuclear weapons, Axios reported.
When Axios sought a comment from the Trump administration, it said it was told, “We don’t comment on private discussions that the president may or may not have had with his national security team.”
The report also quoted a source it described as a senior administration official who defended Trump.
“His goal — to keep a catastrophic hurricane from hitting the mainland — is not bad. His objective is not bad,” Axios quoted the source as saying.
“What people near the president do is they say ‘I love a president who asks questions like that, who’s willing to ask tough questions.’ … It takes strong people to respond to him in the right way when stuff like this comes up. For me, alarm bells weren’t going off when I heard about it, but I did think somebody is going to use this to feed into ‘the president is crazy’ narrative,” the source said, according to Axios.
The idea of nuking a hurricane has been around for decades, according to National Geographic, which published an article on the subject in November 2016.
The article cited a 1961 speech from Francis W. Reichelderfer, the head of the U.S. Weather Bureau, in which he said he could “imagine the possibility someday of exploding a nuclear bomb on a hurricane far at sea.”
However, the popularity of the concept remains such that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has a webpage to answer questions about it.
The page cites two problems with nuking hurricanes. One issue is the amount of deadly radiation that would be produced. Second, it might not work on storms unless they are nuked as they develop, which would mean nuking dozens of storms that might never become hurricanes at all.
The U.S. is also currently banned from such a tactic because of treaties it has signed.
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