CBS Reruns Slam at Bush Over Katrina; Touted Nagin as 'Expert'

CBS's Bill Plante inserted the oft-repeated media spin about the Bush administration's response to Hurricane Katrina into his report on Monday's Early Show. Plante ignored the poor handling of Katrina at the state and local levels, spotlighting instead how "the stranded and homeless wandered the streets of New Orleans" as Bush flew overhead. But three days earlier, CBS brought on former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin as an "expert" on hurricane preparation without mentioning his failures.

Fill-in anchor Jeff Glor stated in his introduction for the correspondent's report that "Irene was not as bad as some thought it might be, but politicians were not taking any chances. They know what happens when government is ill-prepared for disaster." Plante began by spotlighting the Obama administration's response to Hurricane Irene:

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA (from press conference): This has been an exemplary effort of how good government, at every level, should be responsive to people's needs.

Bill Plante, CBS News Correspondent | NewsBusters.orgPLANTE (voice-over): The White House began early last week, saying that it was stockpiling supplies all along the East Coast. And aware of how it looked, President Obama returned from his Martha's Vineyard vacation a day early. And on Saturday, he went out of his way to remind reporters, invited to watch him at a FEMA briefing, that he was on the job.

OBAMA: When I was on the phone with the governors and the mayors yesterday, and I asked them, was there anything they could think of that our team, meaning you, could be doing to help them get prepared, there was quiet on the phone.            

The CBS correspondent then compared the handling of Irene to the response to past disaster, including how the Obama administration itself handled the Gulf oil spill last year:

PLANTE: It was a pronounced contrast to the April 2010 BP oil rig explosion, when the President made no public remarks until nine days after the accident, leaving his administration open to criticism that it bungled the clean-up right from the start. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a politician with a national following, took major flak for being at Disney World with his family last Christmas, as a blizzard slammed the Garden State. Christie was also a constant presence in front of the cameras over the weekend.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R), NEW JERSEY (from press conference): The fact that we were successful in evacuating over a million people from the most affected areas, was a preemptive measure that I am confident saved lives.

PLANTE: And then, there's New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who was initially missing in action at the start of that same blizzard, rumored to be at his vacation home in Bermuda. This time, he took the unprecedented step of closing the entire New York City transit system.

It should be pointed out that during the days immediately following the destruction of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, the Big Three networks, including CBS, punted on evaluating how the Obama administration handled the aftermath, devoting only two out of 157 stories to the White House's response. Just seven other reports made passing references to criticisms of the administration.

Plante delivered the spin against former President Bush on Katrina near the end of the segment, all the while omitting how their "expert," Mayor Nagin, and former Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco, poorly handled the major hurricane:

PLANTE: This is the picture that haunts politicians at every level: President Bush flying over storm-ravaged New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, then congratulating his FEMA director for doing a 'heck of a job,' as the stranded and homeless wandered the streets of New Orleans.

The CBS correspondent concluded by carrying water for the Obama White House: "There were two points the President wanted to make: one is that there are times when government can do good; and the other that at a time when fewer people than ever see him as a strong leader, he had taken charge from the get-go."

The full transcript of Bill Plante's report from Monday's Early Show, which began eight minutes into the 7 am Eastern hour:

JEFF GLOR: Irene was not as bad as some thought it might be, but politicians were not taking any chances. They know what happens when government is ill-prepared for disaster.

CBS News senior White House correspondent Bill Plante has more on that part of the story. Bill, good morning.

BILL PLANTE: Good morning to you, Jeff. Well, politicians at the local, state, and federal levels did everything possible not to repeat the mistakes of Hurricane Katrina, the Gulf oil spill, or a major snowstorm. And after Irene had blown through, the President came to the Rose Garden yesterday afternoon, to make the point that his administration had done everything it could.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA (from press conference): This has been an exemplary effort of how good government, at every level, should be responsive to people's needs.

PLANTE (voice-over): The White House began early last week, saying that it was stockpiling supplies all along the East Coast. And aware of how it looked, President Obama returned from his Martha's Vineyard vacation a day early. And on Saturday, he went out of his way to remind reporters, invited to watch him at a FEMA briefing, that he was on the job.

OBAMA: When I was on the phone with the governors and the mayors yesterday, and I asked them, was there anything they could think of that our team, meaning you, could be doing to help them get prepared, there was quiet on the phone.

PLANTE: It was a pronounced contrast to the April 2010 BP oil rig explosion, when the President made no public remarks until nine days after the accident, leaving his administration open to criticism that it bungled the clean-up right from the start. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a politician with a national following, took major flak for being at Disney World with his family last Christmas, as a blizzard slammed the Garden State. Christie was also a constant presence in front of the cameras over the weekend.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R), NEW JERSEY (from press conference): The fact that we were successful in evacuating over a million people from the most affected areas, was a preemptive measure that I am confident saved lives.

PLANTE: And then, there's New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who was initially missing in action at the start of that same blizzard, rumored to be at his vacation home in Bermuda. This time, he took the unprecedented step of closing the entire New York City transit system.

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, NEW YORK CITY: The best scenario possible is you take the precautions, and it turns out they're not needed.

PLANTE: This is the picture that haunts politicians at every level: President Bush flying over storm-ravaged New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, then congratulating his FEMA director for doing a 'heck of a job,' as the stranded and homeless wandered the streets of New Orleans.


PLANTE (on-camera): There were two points the President wanted to make: one is that there are times when government can do good; and the other that at a time when fewer people than ever see him as a strong leader, he had taken charge from the get-go. Jeff?

GLOR: Bill Plante at the White House- Bill, thanks very much.

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