NBC Edits Democratic Atlanta Mayor Out of Snowstorm Controversy, Blames GOP Governor
At the top of Thursday's NBC Nightly News, anchor Brian Williams proclaimed that "the [Republican] governor of Georgia [Nathan Deal] chose to fall on his snow shovel" over how Tuesday's rare southern snowstorm "was handled, or better yet, mishandled" in the state. However, the coverage that followed failed to mention Atlanta's Democratic Mayor Kasim Reed by name even once. [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
In his report, correspondent Tom Costello declared: "A lot of anger directed toward city and state officials for failing to heed the weather forecasts. And today we learned that both the Governor and the director of the emergency services for the state were sleeping as those forecasts grew even more dire." Those "city officials" were not specified.
A sound bite was included of Governor Deal, labeled as a Republican, acknowledging: "I'm the governor, the buck stops with me." Costello chided: "Yesterday, Governor Nathan Deal said the weather forecast had been inaccurate. But in fact, city and state officials had plenty of warning."
Moments later, Costello touted: "Today, the Governor conceded the state failed to act in time."
The only passing reference to Mayor Reed came from The Weather Channel's Bryan Norcross, who simply remarked: "A winter storm warning was issued at 3:30 in the morning by the National Weather Service, that should have been enough for the Governor and the Mayor to say, 'We're calling off the day, it's too dangerous to get people out.'"
It's not as if NBC didn't have plenty of sound bites of the Mayor admitting his failures, Reed was interviewed live on Thursday morning's Today show by co-host Matt Lauer.
Here is a full transcript of the January 30 Nightly News coverage:
7:00PM ET TEASE:
BRIAN WILLIAMS: What really happened? New information about a cascading series of events that triggered a disaster in the city of Atlanta. Tonight, the governor there is saying he's sorry and admitting mistakes were made.
7:01PM ET SEGMENT:
WILLIAMS: And let's say at the outset no one expects southern cities to be as good at snow removal as cities like New York or Chicago or Boston. But, it took exactly 2.6 inches of snow to paralyze this nation's ninth largest city. The problem was not limited to Atlanta either, but it's a big urban area, the largest in the south, where everybody got on the roads at the same time, right at the time when the roads turned to ice.
Public officials got defensive in the immediate aftermath of the storm, some blamed the weather forecasters, all evidence to the contrary. Well, today the governor of Georgia chose to fall on his snow shovel. He apologized fully and to everyone for how this storm was handled, or better yet, mishandled. And tonight we are learning much more about how it was allowed to get so bad so quickly. We want to begin tonight with NBC's Tom Costello in Atlanta. Hey, Tom, good evening.
TOM COSTELLO: Hi, there. In fact, we've still got ice on the roads, Brian, but it's starting to get a lot better, the traffic is improving. Meanwhile, a lot of anger directed toward city and state officials for failing to heed the weather forecasts. And today we learned that both the Governor and the director of the emergency services for the state were sleeping as those forecasts grew even more dire.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN [ATLANTA LOCAL REPORTER]: This basically looks like a used car parking lot.
COSTELLO: 48 hours after getting slammed with a major winter storm, these are the images city and state officials are still trying to explain. Tens of thousands stuck in their cars for hours, kids trapped at school overnight. 2,000 abandoned cars.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN [ATLANTA RESIDENT]: Anybody with an iPhone knew that is was gonna – a weather app would tell you that it was gonna snow.
COSTELLO: Today, the Governor dropped his original defiance.
NATHAN DEAL [GOV. R-GA]: I'm the governor, the buck stops with me.
COSTELLO: Yesterday, Governor Nathan Deal said the weather forecast had been inaccurate. But in fact, city and state officials had plenty of warning. Sunday afternoon, the first forecasts of up to two inches of snow. Monday, 9:36 p.m., the National Weather Service issued it's first winter storm warning and advised travel only in an emergency for south metro Atlanta counties. Then at 3:38 a.m. Tuesday, the strongest warning yet, revised to pinpoint metro Atlanta.
CHARLIE ENGLISH [GEORGIA EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY]: I made a terrible error in judgment.
COSTELLO: Today, the state's emergency management director admitted he'd failed to take action or notify the governor in a timely manner. By noon, snow was falling, schools and businesses let out early, but it was too late.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN B [ATLANTA RESIDENT]: Why did they not mobilize the National Guard sooner? Why weren't they more prepared for this?
COSTELLO: Soon, the highways around one of the country's biggest cities were clogged and impassable.
BRYAN NORCROSS [THE WEATHER CHANNEL]: A winter storm warning was issued at 3:30 in the morning by the National Weather Service, that should have been enough for the Governor and the Mayor to say, "We're calling off the day, it's too dangerous to get people out."
COSTELLO: Today, the Governor conceded the state failed to act in time.
DEAL: We did not have adequate preparation to encounter the storm as it came in time frame in which it came.
COSTELLO: On the streets today, the National Guard was helping drivers find the cars they'd walked away from. There are abandoned cars all over this region, this is I-75, right through the heart of Atlanta. Mile after mile of this highway, littered with abandoned cars. We caught up with the Blakely's, searching for the car their daughter abandoned on the highway.
MRS. BLAKELY: She was there, yeah, about ten hours.
COSTELLO: Ten hours?
BLAKELY: The whole thing, yeah. The whole thing.
COSTELLO: Two days later, Atlanta is still recovering. A lot of criticism and concern that these roads may not have been pre-treated before the storm. In fact, many roads were pre-treated, but it may have happened really too close to the actual storm time, meaning it was too little, too late. Brian.
WILLIAMS: Yeah, I read today that brine mixture they use of salt and water has to dry first to then melt what falls. Tom Costello on the interstate in Atlanta for us tonight. Tom, thanks.