For two days now Fox News' Major Garrett has reported on first the Red Cross, and then the Salvation Army, being denied entrance to New Orleans by Louisiana State authorities. According to Garrett and the Red Cross website, officials didn't want the food, water and sanitary supplies to get to the Superdome and Convention Center because it might encourage others to come to those sites rather than evacuate the city. The result of the decision to withhold aid was thousands of New Orleans citizens trying to survive in horrific conditions without much needed supplies. The Louisiana National Guard, which was not tasked with providing survival supplies to evacuees, had to divert their attention from law enforcement and rescue operations to providing aid to the desperate families looking for the basics of life.
On this evening’s The Situation Room, CNN’s Jack Cafferty ran a poll asking the following question concerning ongoing rescue efforts in New Orleans: What should be done with the people who refuse to leave?
“Officials want everybody out of town because the health risks of the contaminated water are simply too great. But not everybody wants to leave.”
This raises an interesting question that seems to be eluding media representatives like Mr. Cafferty: If a large percentage of people don’t want to leave now as the health risks in the water that is surrounding them are mounting and obvious, why should we be surprised that a similarly large percentage of the New Orleans population didn’t leave prior to the hurricane making landfall?
In a new low, the Associated Press has dealt another race card from the bottom of the deck. In a slanted piece called, “Katrina, Aftermath Galvanize Black America,” author Jesse Washington includes quotes from the inane:
"I've seen black folk come together around any number of issues. It's usually either a head or a heart issue," [PBS host] Tavis Smiley said. "For example, we came together after the election of 2000, when Bush essentially stole the election. That was a head issue. People were mad. Other issues hit our hearts; O.J. Simpson comes to mind."
To the insane:
"You'd have to go back to slavery, or the burning of black towns, to find a comparable event that has affected black people this way," said Darnell M. Hunt, a sociologist and head of the African American studies department at UCLA.
Under video shown on ABC's Good Morning America, during Charlie Gibson's Wednesday interview with Senator Hillary Clinton on Capitol Hill, viewers saw a graphic which asked: “WHAT WENT WORONG?” ABC's spelling, for one thing. The misspelled graphic ran under video of Senator Clinton talking to people inside the Washington, DC armory, one of the shelters for those evacuated from New Orleans.
The MRC's Rich Noyes caught ABC's miscue, which they quickly corrected when they switched to a two-shot of Gibson and Clinton.
The misery and loss of life following Hurricane Katrina and the flooding of New Orleans make it the worst calamity to hit the United States since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. But after 9/11, many journalists insisted that their correct stance was rigid neutrality, refusing to call terrorists "terrorists" and insisting objectivity would be compromised by wearing lapel pins with the American flag. In contrast, journalists showed no similar desire for neutrality in covering this disaster.
A day after CNN reported poll numbers which show a small minority of Americans blame President Bush for a slow response to the disaster in New Orleans, CBS News today reported their new polling data, which were considerably more negative for the Bush administration. The poll, unlike CNN’s, doesn’t deal with “blame” for the New Orleans disaster but rather focused on the adequacy of the governmental response. Nevertheless, correspondent Thalia Assuras on today’s Early Show chose the most negative poll numbers, failing to give a broader context to her story than the "bitter political sniping" which she portrayed as almost a natural reaction to the Bush administration's response, rather than a calculated liberal Democratic strategy: "Well the government's response to the catastrophe has unleashed bitter political sniping here in Washington, with much of the criticism directed against the Bush administration. Americans are struck by the images they have seen, and now we know just how strong their feelings are."
Assuras relayed most of the polling data but failed to report two numbers I found striking. For example, the initial public reaction from the earliest days of Katrina’s aftermath was positive, with 54 percent favoring the government’s reaction and only 12 percent opposed, and presently 60 percent of poll respondents think the federal government is doing all it can do now to address the crisis. These polling numbers, I believe, show the evolving public reaction to the stark images from New Orleans as the liberally biased national media pushed the blame towards FEMA's Mike Brown and President Bush while downplaying or ignoring the misjudgments on the ground by Mayor Nagin and Governor Blanco.
Below is a transcript of Assuras’s piece, including the set-up by host Harry Smith and the opening credits tease by Hannah Storm:
A couple of weeks ago, I addressed a piece from the AP's Jennifer Loven. Loven, the wife of a former Clinton administration environmental official, found it necessary to write, as gasoline prices were rising, about how George W. Bush was probably the greatest consumer of gasoline. Well, after almost two weeks of absolutely relentless criticism of the President for not taking Katrina seriously, the AP has run a Loven article today (Many Chiefs in White House Recovery Effort) which criticizes the President for having his administration focused on the Hurricane relief effort.
On last evening’s The Situation Room, CNN’s Ed Henry did a report on the politicization of Hurricane Katrina. One of the first segments was House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) with some rather unkind words about our president:
“He chose someone with absolutely no credentials. You know what? When I said to the president that he should fire Michael Brown, he said why would I do that? I said because of all that went wrong with all that didn't go right last week. He said what didn't go right.
“Oblivious, in denial. Dangerous.”
And that was just the beginning of Ed’s report. It gets even better.
On Wednesday night's Countdown, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann, one night after he scathingly attacked President Bush's handling of hurricane relief (see this Wednesday NewsBusters posting), made what seems to be a bizarre comparison between those who approve of Bush's handling of disaster relief and those who voted against Lincoln's re-election in 1864.
Olbermann relayed his belief that the current political climate was a "re-creation" of the "mindset of the national politics of the year 1864," the year when 45 percent of American voters voted for Democratic candidate George McClellan, "whose campaign platform consisted entirely of promising to immediately end the war, let the South secede, and let slavery continue there." Considering the recent criticisms made by some that President Bush was insensitive to hurricane victims trapped in New Orleans because most were black, Olbermann's choice of McClellan, a man who ran on a pro-slavery platform, suspiciously looks like an accusation that Bush's supporters similarly are insensitive to the black population, or, at least, are supporting a man who is just as obviously undeserving of support as McClellan was.
Olbermann then went on to recite Gallup poll results that shed light on whom the public blames for disaster relief problems, but excluded the finding that only 13 percent of those polled believe Bush was "most responsible for the problems in New Orleans after the hurricane." He instead distorted the results by combining those who blame Bush -- 13 percent -- and those who blame federal agencies -- 18 percent -- to say that 31 percent blame "the President or federal agencies."
A complete transcript of Olbermann's comments follows:
So President Bush was blamed for Hurricane Katrina, because he wouldn't support and sign the Kyoto protocol. And he was responsible for the slow Federal response, because he was vacationing in Texas/golfing in Arizona/giving a speech in California. And he didn't care about saving the people in New Orleans because they're black. And now we discover that his diabolical foresight is staggering. Because back in April, he added hardships to the people victimized by Katrina, essentially setting a trap for them, and springing it with the storm. At least that's what this Knight-Ridder story (New bankruptcy law imposes more burdens on Katrina survivors) seems to be implying...
Hurricane Katrina survivors whose finances are in shambles may not qualify for federal bankruptcy protection once a new law with tough eligibility restrictions takes effect Oct. 17. And anyone who intends to file before the new standards take effect must overcome other Katrina complications such as injuries, being moved to out-of-state shelters, the loss of personal financial records and the closure of the five federal courthouses in hurricane-ravaged areas of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. The Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention & Consumer Protection Act, which President Bush signed into law April 20, allows only people who earn less than their states' median income to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection, which lets them erase their debts after they forfeit their assets.
The question that leaps to mind is "does he get blamed for the environmental disaster of Lake Pontchartrain next, or is there something else before they get to that?"
Olbermann's arrogant hypocrisy. On Tuesday's Countdown, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann misidentified Tom DeLay as the House "Minority" Leader, an error for which he soon conceded that "I'd like to give you a good explanation for it, but there wasn't one. I just kicked it." But the night before, Olbermann had launched a five-minute diatribe which pegged great meaning to Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff's miscue that "Louisiana is a city that is largely underwater." Olbermann thundered: "Well, there's your problem right there. If ever a slip of the tongue defined a government's response to a crisis." Olbermann soon provided ridicule: "Anybody seen the Vice President lately, the man whose message this time last year was 'I will protect you, the other guy might let you die'? I don't know which 'we' Mr. Bush meant. For many of this country's citizens, the mantra has been, as we were taught in social studies it should always be, whether or not I voted for this President, he is still my President. I suspect anybody who had to give him that benefit of the doubt stopped doing so last week." Olbermann also suggested Bush looked "like a 21st century Marie Antoinette."
After a week off, Jon Stewart opened his Daily Show on Comedy Central Tuesday night with a very serious lecture about the federal government's failures in the hurricane disaster. Without addressing the bias point that the media framework has held Bush and FEMA accountable to the exclusion of local officials, he scolded those who claim the "left-wing media is being too hard" on Bush: "No. Shut up. No. This is inarguably, inarguably a failure of leadership from the top of the federal government." Stewart's presentation culminated with a laugh line, "Hurricane Katrina is George Bush's Monica Lewinsky. One difference, and I'll say this, the only difference is this: That tens of thousands of people weren't stranded in Monica Lewinsky's vagina. That is the only difference."
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The Early Show's Harry Smith continued to pile on the Bush administration's relief efforts in Louisiana, shifting from New Orleans to a less-populated but equally if not more so devastated jurisdiction, Saint Bernard Parish, parts of which are awash with oil slicks caused by spills from a local refinery. Smith complained that FEMA had not been able to meet with parish officials until yesterday, and relayed the complaints of the parish's president and disaster management chief before asking Brown if he had "screwed up."
Harry Smith: "The toxic cocktail that drenched Chalmette likely means these neighborhoods will have to be flattened. Larry Ingargiola heads emergency management, Henry Rodriguez, Jr., is the parish president.
Smith with Rodriguez and Ingargiola: "What's the situation with most of the housing right around here."
Larry Ingargiola: "There is no housing."
Henry Rodriguez, Jr.: "There is no housing."
Smith: "There is no housing?"
Rodriguez: "There's nobody that can come back and live in a house. Nowhere in this parish."
Smith: "These men have a problem, and it didn't help matters much that FEMA took a week to show up. FEMA chief Mike Brown will arrive any minute. Their message:"
Ingargiola: "We were left alone. We need your help now. We're not going to bitch with you or do anything like that. We need your help. You don't bite the hand that's feeding you right now."
Rodriguez: "Our federal government can't be incompetent and stupid all at one time. You know, you've got to know that we've got problems down here."
Smith: "Mike Brown did show up, and while there were plenty of smiles and handshakes, the parish president was not afraid to throw up a few expletives to make his point."
Rodriguez to Mike Brown: "I don't want them hijacking [expletive deleted]."
Mike Brown of FEMA to Rodriguez: "That's why I'm here."
Smith @ 0721 EDT: "FEMA is a four-letter word in south Louisiana. Many folks here feel if it didn't work, it's Brown's fault."
Smith: "Did you screw this up?"
Brown: No. No."
Smith: "If, in the end there's an investigation and they say this just wasn't done right, who's accountable?"
Brown: "Well, that's what the investigation will find out. That's what the investigation will tell us."
As though it were a completely cynical motive, Smith then goes on to show the parish president saying the oil industry is the reason why the feds are paying attention to his parish's disaster relief needs:
According to a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, in response to a question of who is to blame for New Orleans' problems after the hurricane:
"13 percent said Bush, 18 percent said federal agencies, 25 percent blamed state or local officials and 38 percent said no one is to blame. And 63 percent said they do not believe anyone at federal agencies responsible for handling emergencies should be fired as a result."
Once again, there is a split between the American people and the media elite.
When Matt Lauer eventually leaves the Today show, he can look forward to a career in slow-pitch softball. His talents were on full display this morning in his interview of Hillary Clinton.
The conventions of good journalism dictate that when guests, particularly intrinisically political ones, are interviewed, they are challenged on their assumptions.
But when Today's Matt Lauer interviewed Hillary Clinton this morning, what seemed at first to be a lead-up to such a challenge turned out in fact to be just the opposite, as Lauer handed Hillary yet another club with which to bash the Bush administration.
Lauer began by reading from Hillary's letter criticizing the federal response in general and FEMA in particular.
You might have thought that Lauer would have raised the issue of incompetence at the state and local [read Democratic] levels. But no, Lauer entirely bought into Hillary's logic, lamely inquiring whether Her Hilllaryness felt "this was a problem with an entire [federal] system, or did some key individuals make poor decisions?"
On NPR's Morning Edition on Tuesday, ABC reporter Judy Muller unleashed another of her occasional commentaries for public radio. (Listen here.) Some of them are light, but Tuesday's was tough. Muller was angry at the inattention poor black people get outside of natural disasters, saying "Hurricanes don't discriminate, but society does discriminate." Here's the transcript of what she said, beginning with mockery of the president:
"When President Bush first landed in the hurricane zone Friday, he offered this upbeat assessment: `The good news is, and it's hard for some to see it now, that out of this chaos is going to come a fantastic Gulf Coast, like it was before. Out of the rubble of Trent Lott's house--he's lost his entire house--there's going to be a fantastic house. And,' he added, `I'm looking forward to sitting on the porch.'
"What a relief. All those Americans who might have been agonizing over this issue, wondering, `How about Trent Lott? Will he ever rebuild?'--well, they can rest easy now. As for all those Americans who have been agonizing over the images of poor people, mostly poor black people, who never had their own homes to begin with and who couldn't even afford the bus fare to get their families out of town before disaster struck, well, the news isn't quite so rosy.
"In fact, the one question people keep asking, over and over, is: `I can't believe this is the United States of America! How can this be happening here?' And the answer isn't actually that complicated. It's happening here because the nation's poor are so often ignored--by the government, by the media, by wealthier Americans--until a disaster of major proportions washes those horrific images up on our collective doorstep.
"Conventional wisdom says natural disasters like hurricanes don't discriminate, but society does discriminate. And so when natural disasters do hit, if you live in the poor part of town, the infrastructure will be shaky; the cost of transportation, good housing and medical care prohibitive. The result is what we've all been watching: images that have forced us to wonder what we would do, faced with no food or water for our children. Would we steal from stores to survive?...
Geraldo Rivera appeared on The O'Reilly Factor this evening to discuss what he said was a false story printed by The New York Times. Television journalist, Alesssandra Stanley wrote the following snippet that is hidden at the bottom her the article:
Some reporters helped stranded victims because no police officers or rescue workers were around. (Fox's Geraldo Rivera did his rivals one better: yesterday, he nudged an Air Force rescue worker out of the way so his camera crew could tape him as he helped lift an older woman in a wheelchair to safety.)
News reports alerted the world, and, it seems, an inattentive federal government, to the neglected victims in New Orleans. And television networks even acted as benefactors, holding star-studded telethons to raise money for the storm's victims.
On Tuesday's NBC Nightly News, reporter Martin Savidge in New Orleans highlighted a complaint from environmentalists about the impact of the contaminated water being pumped out of the city, but reporter Lisa Myers, in a story on “missed opportunities,” also gave broadcast network air time to showing an aerial view of some of the hundreds of flooded school buses the city government abandoned: “Some two hundred New Orleans school buses sit underwater, unused, enough to have evacuated 13,000 people. Why weren't those buses sent street by street to pick up people before the storm?” The rest of Myers' take on the buses follows.
Savidge wrapped up a piece on the flooding and all the E. Coli in the water: “There are some ecological concerns, especially as they begin pumping that filthy water out of New Orleans into either Lake Pontchartrain or the Gulf of Mexico. Environmentalists wonder, well what happens after that? City leaders simply say, one problem at a time.”
In an otherwise good interview in the final half hour with Rick Warren, the Southern Baptist pastor and bestselling author of The Purpose-Driven Life, The Early Show's Harry Smith worried that some Hurricane Katrina victims taken into the homes of church parishioners might be forced to attend church in order to get a decent meal:
"Let me ask you this, though: is this an opportunity for a church to witness? Or if I'm a family, am, do I need to be concerned that I'm going to go live with a church family, are they going to proselytize me, are they going to say, 'you better come to church with me or else, I'm, you know, you're not going to get your breakfast this morning'?"
America’s media are, once again, predicting economic doom and gloom as a result of a natural disaster. Such predictions have been wrong before and, in the case of Hurricane Katrina, will likely turn out wrong again.
These predictions fly in the face of strong economic data reported by the Labor Department on Friday – including an August unemployment rate of 4.9 percent that is now the lowest in four years. America’s press decided to play down the positives by focusing on the threat to jobs and the economy as a result of Katrina.
Edmund L. Andrews of The New York Times took a negative outlook with this:
What follows below are the interview questions with New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin from today's Early Show. You will notice Nagin was not asked about any area where his leadership may have failed his constituents, particularly his controversial decision last week to put tourists who had been holed up in a Hyatt priority on evacuation over New Orleans residents who had waited out the storm and the flooding in horrendous living conditions in the Superdome.
@ 0711 EDT
Harry Smith from Canal Street, New Orleans: Just moments ago we had the opportunity to talk with the mayor here, Mayor Ray Nagin, and I asked him what does he need most now?
Smith: "You've said that you are concerned that there may be as many as how many dead here in New Orleans?"
Smith: "In the end, as we look back, the people have been evacuated from the Superdome, from the convention center, by and large the evacuation is complete. Who bears the shame for what happened here last week?"
Smith: "Here's uh, the question I'm curious to hear about, your people are now dispersed all over the United States, you have a quarter ofa million in Texas alone. Do they come back, does this city come back? Does this city, I was sitting here this morning saying, you know, I'd really would like to go down and get a cafe au lait and a beignet and I want to hear the sounds, and I want to smell the food, I want to experience what it used to be like here. Will that happen again?"
Smith: "I want to go back to something we were talking about just a second ago, because I heard you on the radio crying last week, I heard you swearing, uh, maybe it's not time for the blame game, but something broke down."
Smith: "Off the top of your head, streets clear of water, when the electricity is on, what's your best estimate?"
Smith: "Alright, Mayor, thank you so much for your time this morning."
CBS’s Early Show today featured a taped tirade by Aaron Broussard, the Democratic president of Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, who, on Sunday's Meet the Press essentially accused FEMA and the Bush administration of "murdering" New Orleanians. Broussard did try to sound some conciliatory notes, talking about shaking hands with FEMA officials and worrying about blame later, but then launched into an extended baseball analogy lampooning the Bush administration's reaction to the hurricane disaster which made Smith crack up laughing. Smith didn't challenge any of Broussards bombastic claims and his colleague Hannah Storm, co-hosting from New York, praised Broussard as embodying "the spirit of Louisiana":
The NY Times today seemed so excited to see former President Clinton involved in hurricane relief that it practically ignored his partner in this pursuit, former President Bush. In fact, this article refers to Mr. Clinton by name at least 17 times, his wife five times, while the former President Bush is actually only named twice. From this, one would think that he’s such an afterthought that this effort should be called the Clinton-Clinton Katrina Fund.
What is also striking about this article is its condescending tone toward current President Bush:
Monday’s Access Hollywood teased with a clip of rapper Kanye West’s blast on Friday’s Concert for Hurricane Relief broadcast on several NBC channels, "George Bush doesn't care about black people," followed by a clip of actor Matt Damon: “I let out a cheer.” The syndicated NBC Productions program also featured a clip of this ludicrous claim from West on the fund-raising show: “We already realize a lot of the people that could help are at war right now fighting another way and they’ve given them permission to go down and shoot us.” (For more about West's allegations, check this Friday night NewsBusters posting by Tim Graham.)
A few minutes later on Access Hollywood, co-host Nancy O’Dell touted how “it was Kanye West’s anti-Bush remarks that caught the attention of Matt Damon and Susan Sarandon in Italy” at the Venice Film Festival. Viewers then saw this from actress Susan Sarandon as she stood at some sort of an event: “I don’t think that’s an original thought, but it’s probably true.” (With Access Hollywood’s quick cut editing, it’s hard to know what people are specifically referring to.)
Immediately after Sarandon, Access Hollywood played a longer soundbite from Damon who claimed the White House press corps is too nice to Bush and thus “not one of them’s an honest journalist.” Full quote follows, as well as Colin Farrell’s charge that white people would have been rescued faster.
According to Davids Medienkritik, a blog that monitors the German media, columnist Philipp Mausshardt wrote in the Tageszeitung that that because of Hurricane Katrina, "joy and sympathy beat simultaneously in my chest. I am, for example, joyful at the moment that the latest hurricane catastrophe hasn't again hit some poor land, but instead the richest country in the world.
"Yes, I even see in that a form of balancing justice for that which the inhabitants of that country have done to others through their war in Iraq.
"I would, however, be even more happy, if I knew that only the houses of Bush voters and members of the Army had been destroyed.
In a harried, fast-moving interview with CNN’s Soledad O’Brien this morning, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin had many words of praise for President Bush, while pointing much blame at Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco:
Nagin>> I got promises too. I can't stand any more promises. I don't want to hear any more promises. I want to see stuff done. That's why I'm so happy the president came down here because I think they were feeding him a line of bull also. They were telling him things weren’t as bad as it was, he came down and saw it and he put a general on the field. His name is general Honore. When he hit the field, we started to see action. What the state was doing, I don't friggin' know but I tell you, I am pissed. It wasn't adequate. The president and the governor sat down. Air force one, I said, Mr. President, Madam governor, you two have to get in sync. If you don't get in sync, more people are going to die.
In a poll most likely to be played down by both the Washington Post and ABC News (sponsors of the poll), it shows that "far fewer take George W. Bush personally to task" for the hurricane, and "public anger about the response is less widespread than some critics would suggest."
This is not what you would assume by the media's coverage.
"Two-thirds in this ABC News/Washington Post poll say the federal government should have been better prepared to deal with a storm this size, and three-quarters say state and local governments in the affected areas likewise were insufficiently prepared."
According to the media, the federal government, and Bush and particular, deserves the bulk of the criticism.
It had to happen. When the chorus of MSM complaints of federal inaction was drowned in a sea of thousands of soldiers moving into New Orleans, the MSM nimbly adjusted. Now the problem is . . . too many soldiers.
NBC's Carl Quintanilla framed it this way on this morning's Today show, with the rubric "Chaos in New Orleans" displayed on screen:
"Now that the military is moving in huge convoys of soldiers, concerns that too strong a military presence in too small a space could cause accidents, crashes."
Today then aired footage of a rescue helicopter that had rolled over in the mud, as Quintanilla fretted "it's just what residents of New Orleans do not need as they decide whether to leave a ravaged city or tough it out."
When it comes to the MSM's treatment of the Bush administration's response to Katrina, it's damned if you do, damned if you don't.