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Matt Drudge’s latest conspiracy theory is not just stupid — it’s dangerous

Girl running from stormy ocean
Rain from Hurricane Matthew starts to fall in Cocoa Beach, Florida.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Libby Nelson is Vox's policy editor, leading coverage of how government action and inaction shape American life. Libby has more than a decade of policy journalism experience, including at Inside Higher Ed and Politico. She joined Vox in 2014.

Hurricane Matthew is looking to be the first major hurricane to hit Florida in a decade. It killed more than 100 people in Haiti. Officials in the state are taking on the difficult task of getting people to take the threat seriously enough to leave their homes.

Matt Drudge just made it a lot harder with a suggestion that the warnings are part of a left-wing conspiracy to convince Florida residents that climate change is real.

“The deplorables” — Trump supporters — “are starting to wonder if govt has been lying to them … to make exaggerated point on climate,” Drudge tweeted.

Then the Drudge Report got in on the action, tweeting an article from the Miami Herald and adding the headline “STORM FIZZLE? MATTHEW LOOKS RAGGED!”

The actual article linked from the tweet mentions nothing about the storm weakening, instead saying that strong winds are expected to start in Florida within hours.

There’s absolutely no evidence for Drudge’s claim. The National Weather Service is a nonpartisan agency; more than that, in the past it has cautioned against blaming any single storm on climate change, although the warming trend is making extreme storms more likely in general. Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who said Thursday that “this storm will kill you,” is a Republican with no incentive to play up the seriousness of the disaster in order to help the Clinton campaign.

Drudge’s conspiracy-mongering is a dangerous game. More than 1.5 million people live in the evacuation zone for Matthew. 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.

The implication of Drudge’s tweet is that resisting evacuation isn’t a bad, self-destructive move but a brave way for “deplorables” to stand up for the government. That’s not just stupid — it could very well be deadly.

Further reading: Hurricane Matthew is a serious threat to Florida.

Watch: Remembering Katrina and the aftermath