CBS Presents Former Mayor Nagin as an 'Expert' on Eve of Hurricane

On Friday's Early Show, CBS somehow thought it was appropriate to bring on former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin to offer "lessons learned from other hurricanes," as Hurricane Irene bore down on the East Coast. Anchor Chris Wragge not only failed to ask Nagin about his failures in leadership in the lead-up to Hurricane Katrina, but also twice labeled his guest an "expert in the field" [audio clips available here].

After making his first reference to the former mayor as an "expert," Wragge first asked the Democrat, "What comes to mind for you when you hear about a hurricane this size bearing down on the East Coast, a region- especially up here in the Northeast, it's not always used to this kind of weather conditions?" In reply, the politician took the time to not only promote his new book, but also tried to rehabilitate his damaged image:

[Video clips from the segment available after the jump]

NAGIN: Well, it's very concerning, Chris, because this storm has a larger footprint than Hurricane Katrina. And, in my book, that I self-published through CreateSpace, I talk about what we did to prepare for it, the evacuation. Most people don't know we got about 95% to 96% of the people who were in the city out of harm's way before the storm hit. So, there's many lessons to be learned from our experience.

During the rest of the interview, the CBS anchor consulted Nagin for his advice, not once mentioning how the former New Orleans mayor waited until the last 24 hours before Katrina's landfall to declare a mandatory evacuation of the low-lying city, and how he failed to utilize his government's fleet of buses to evacuate people before their parking lots were flooded by storm waters. However, Wragge did mention FEMA's "lack of response" after the 2005 hurricane:

WRAGGE: A little bit more difficult to evacuate, like in New York City, just because of the sheer volume. And then, there's also people on the Outer Banks, there are people on the coasts of New Jersey and other regions, that don't necessarily want to evacuate, think they can ride it out. What type of advice would you give these people?...

WRAGGE: One of the biggest after-effects of Katrina was the lack of response. President Obama has already issued states of emergencies in certain states, North Carolina being one. But how do you gauge and how do you feel FEMA is doing now since Katrina with disasters like this? Is there a better state of preparedness, do you feel?...

WRAGGE: Can I ask you this? I mean, what do you feel- as far as the precautionary measures that have been taken along the East Coast already, has anything stood out to you as- well, that's not a great idea, or that's a good idea that you've heard in the last few days?...

WRAGGE: Biggest lesson that you learned from Katrina: any type of advice that you can impart on the people here in the Northeast right now?

At the end of the segment, the journalist thanked Nagin, again labeled him an "expert in the field," and added, "if people aren't heeding the advice of their local officials, they should definitely heed your advice."

Later on Friday, MSNBC also brought on the Democratic politician during Martin Bashir's program and on Hardball. Unlike Wragge, Bashir did raise how Nagin was "accused of being too late in ordering that mandatory evacuation," and asked, "In retrospect, and given, you know, you knew all about the circumstances in which people were living in New Orleans, do you accept that just as FEMA underperformed, you also had some failings?"

The full transcript of Chris Wragge's interview of former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, which aired 19 minutes into the 8 am Eastern hour:

CHRIS WRAGGE: As the East Coast prepares for Hurricane Irene, we want to pay attention now to some lessons learned from other hurricanes- number one on the list: Hurricane Katrina

And joining us now is former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, and his new book about Katrina and its aftermath is called 'Katrina's Secrets.' Mr. Mayor, good morning. Thank you for joining us here this morning.

Ray Nagin, Former New Orleans Mayor; Screen Cap From 26 August 2011 Edition of CBS's Early Show | NewsBusters.orgC. RAY NAGIN, FORMER MAYOR, NEW ORLEANS: Good morning, Chris, and our thoughts and prayers out to everyone on the East Coast as they deal with this threat.

WRAGGE: And I'm sure they thank you for that. You are an expert in the field here. What comes to mind for you when you hear about a hurricane this size bearing down on the East Coast, a region- especially up here in the Northeast, it's not always used to this kind of weather conditions?

NAGIN: Well, it's very concerning, Chris, because this storm has a larger footprint than Hurricane Katrina. And, in my book, that I self-published through CreateSpace, I talk about what we did to prepare for it, the evacuation. Most people don't know we got about 95% to 96% of the people who were in the city out of harm's way before the storm hit. So, there's many lessons to be learned from our experience.

WRAGGE: A little bit more difficult to evacuate, like in New York City, just because of the sheer volume. And then, there's also people on the Outer Banks, there are people on the coasts of New Jersey and other regions, that don't necessarily want to evacuate, think they can ride it out. What type of advice would you give these people?

NAGIN: Well, don't do it. If you're in a low-lying area, my advice is to get out as quickly as you can. You can always come back home. Take what you need- take your pets, your medicine, enough food and water for at least a week. You can always come back home. That's the big- one of the biggest mistakes our citizens made- the people who decided to ride it out, and they paid a heavy price for that.

WRAGGE: One of the biggest after-effects of Katrina was the lack of response. President Obama has already issued states of emergencies in certain states, North Carolina being one. But how do you gauge and how do you feel FEMA is doing now since Katrina with disasters like this? Is there a better state of preparedness, do you feel?

NAGIN: Well, I have good confidence in Craig Fugate, who heads up FEMA. He's been there. He was in Florida. He done it before. But my bigger concern is that the laws that govern what happens after disasters- the Stafford Act- really haven't changed, and we, as a nation, don't really have a national evacuation plan. So, unfortunately, we're probably going to struggle with a few more disasters.

WRAGGE: Can I ask you this? I mean, what do you feel- as far as the precautionary measures that have been taken along the East Coast already, has anything stood out to you as- well, that's not a great idea, or that's a good idea that you've heard in the last few days?


NAGIN: Well, I've been watching this thing pretty closely, and I think that the governors- to declare a state of emergency, the mayors who have been ordering people out in low-lying areas- is a good thing. I think one of the other things that they need to work on and focus in on is, how do they get people out? We have a very complicated formula of turning all our highways around. It's called contra-flow. So, we make sure that we maximize the number of people coming out. I'm not sure that can be done on the East Coast, but if it can, it probably would help.

WRAGGE: Biggest lesson that you learned from Katrina: any type of advice that you can impart on the people here in the Northeast right now?

NAGIN: Well, the biggest advice is to make sure that people understand the seriousness. And, you know, one of the things there on the East Coast is that there's no real buffer. We had a buffer to kind of lessen the impact of the storm surge. Storm surge is the biggest threat that's facing the East Coast, and there's nothing to slow down the waves that are headed your way.
                                           
WRAGGE: Well, Mayor Ray Nagin, we thank you so much for taking the time. Like I said, you're an expert in the field, and if people aren't heeding the advice of their local officials, they should definitely heed your advice. Thanks again- good to see you.

NAGIN: Well, thank you, and our thoughts and prayers and- are out to the East Coast, and you can get through it. We got through it in New Orleans.

WRAGGE: All right. Mayor Ray Nagin, thanks so much.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center