Conservative online journalist Matt Drudge and other conspiracy theorists online suggested on Thursday — even as the Category Four Hurricane Matthew barreled toward the coast of Florida and other states along the southeast coast of the United States — that the hurricane’s threat was being inflated in order to “make (an) exaggerated point on climate.”
And on his heavily trafficked web site, The Drudge Report, Drudge suggested that Hurricane Matthew has already “fizzled,” despite reports from actual meteorologists warning that the hurricane in fact had gained strength as it bore down on Florida, and authorities warned that the storm could be the worst to hit the United States in a decade. Florida Governor Rick Scott, himself a conservative Republican, implored residents to obey evacuation orders, declaring, “this storm will kill you!”
The article in the Miami Herald linked by the Drudge Report contains no information suggesting that Hurricane Matthew had “fizzled.” In fact, the Herald reported that the 140 miles per hour winds recorded in the hurricane over the Carribbean may intensify as the storm plows into the east coast.
Drudge was not the only conspiracy theorist failing to take Hurricane Matthew seriously. Others suggested that the hurricane was being exaggerated as a way to sell food items.
In addition to Drudge, another prominent conservative media personality, radio host Rush Limbaugh, also suggested that the impending hurricane was part of a conspiracy, the purpose of which is to convince the public that climate change is real.
“The National Hurricane Center is part of the National Weather Service, which is part of the Commerce Department, which is part of the Obama administration, which by definition has been tainted just like the DOJ has,” Limbaugh said in his Thursday radio broadcast. “With hurricane tracking and hurricane forecasting, I’ve been able to spot where I think they might be playing games because it’s in the interests of the left to have destructive hurricanes because then they can blame it on climate change, which they can continue desperately continue trying to sell.”
Unlike Drudge, however, Limbaugh said that he believes that Matthew is, indeed, a dangerous hurricane. But he added that the threat of hurricanes in general over the past decade has been overblown by the press and the government.
Meteorologists on The Weather Channel, however, pleaded with their viewers to heed the hurricane warnings, with one telling his audience, “I am not kidding!”
Despite his own history of denying the reality of climate change, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump issued a statement urging residents of the southeastern coastal states to listen to their government officials and seek safety from Hurricane Matthew.
Drudge’s online remarks produced an immediate backlash however, with dozens of social media users and online journalists condemning them as potentially disastrous.
“Drudge’s conspiracy-mongering is a dangerous game. More than 1.5 million people live in the evacuation zone for Matthew,” wrote Vox.com reporter Libby Nelson. “It’s already difficult to get people to take evacuation warnings seriously — so difficult that emergency managers have a slew of haunting tricks to drive home the danger of hurricanes, including asking people to write their Social Security numbers on their arms if they’re staying behind so that their bodies can be identified.”
Florida Power and Light warned that as many as 2.5 million customers could lose power as a result of the hurricane, which killed at least 136 people as it slammed into Haiti earlier this week.