Sharpiegate is an event that occurred during the 2020 United States Presidential Election.

It started when President Donald Trump incorrectly stated during a hurricane briefing on September 4, 2020, that the storms of Hurricane Dorian were, at one time, likely to reach the state of Alabama.

Weather experts and meteorologists quickly pointed out that the forecast models at the time did not suggest the storm’s path included Alabama, and the National Weather Service even issued a statement affirming that the state was never in any danger. The president and his advisers insisted that the forecasts had been changed and included Alabama, so Trump tweeted a map to support his claim.

However, it later appeared that the map had been altered with a black marker. The incident quickly exploded in social media, with people labeling the Pen-Gate, Sharpie-Gate or Sharpie-Scandal, among other names.

Background of Sharpiegate

Prior to Sharpiegate, Trump had publically stated that Hurricane Dorian’s path would pass over Alabama.

Sources from the National Hurricane Center as well as the National Weather Service indicated that the storm’s earlier projections did not include Alabama.

The Washington Post was the first to break the news of the alteration, which was key to igniting the eventual Sharpiegate movement.

After the tweet, images of the President presented to several people with the White House soon surfaced with a large black sharpie employed in an effort to alter a National Hurricane Center map to include Alabama.

The Debate Over Sharpiegate

Sharpiegate sparked significant dispute as it became a trending topic on social networks. Supporters of Trump argued that the president had been right all along, while critics pointed to the altered map as proof of a cover-up or even an attempt to manipulate the facts.

Initially the White House defended the alteration and the president’s initial statements. Presidential aides used the hashtag #SharpieGate and continued to insist that the hurricane forecasts had been modified at some point in time to include the state of Alabama.

However, meteorologists from the National Weather Service refuting Trump’s claims, stating there had been no change in the forecasts which had excluded Alabama from being in the storm path.

The President’s Response to Sharpiegate

Trump continued to assert his point of view claiming he had seen a report that the hurricane would most likely reach Alabama. He then tweeted saying:

“Always good to be prepared!”

The President even went so far as to accuse the press of spreading false news and “fake map” after they had criticized him for showing the modified map.

The President even produced a different map to prove his point on the delayed effects from Hurricane Dorian.

The Aftermath of Sharpiegate

After its emergence onto the national scene, Sharpiegate has been a constant source of news for over a month. After the president’s tweets, many social media users began expressing their thoughts about the incident and pointing to Trump’s response.

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel also opened an investigation into Sharpiegate in October of 2020 since it’s a potential violation of the Hatch Act which prohibits government officials from using their positions to influence an election.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) also spoke out defending the president’s actions, saying it was the “best information available at the time.”

In December 2020, 14 members of NOAA staff filed an official complaint against the agency for what they claim was political interference.

No end to Sharpiegate is expected any time soon as it is likely to be subject of much debate.

Sharpiegate and its Impact on the Public

The Sharpiegate incident created an intense debate with much public discourse on both sides of the matter. With this debate came extreme reactions to the news.

Some were viewed as comedic or ironic with many people jokingly claiming that the state Alabama was in mortal peril or that the president’s desk was now a crime scene. Others simply remarked that the incident ultimately has little relevance to the current issues facing the nation and even the world at large.

Sharpiegate’s impact can also be seen in the media, where news organizations such as Bloomberg, News Max, and Fox News all ran stories and features on the potential implications of the incident. Social media offers us a look at how individual Americans responded by taking part in the Sharpiegate discussion.

Similarly, Sharpiegate inspired an entire line of merchandise, such as T-shirts, mugs, and even baby onesies printed with the infamous map and slogan.

Sharpiegate proved to be a major news story and sparked debate both among government officials and everyday people.

It was an incident that revealed the President’s willingness to bend the facts to fit his own narrative, and the public’s willingness to lambast him for it. In the end, Sharpiegate inspired reflection over the power of words and how to best police them in the public forum. Regardless of whether the incident inspired humor or serious critique, it is certain that Sharpiegate will be remembered for years to come.