"South Park," the popular Comedy Central show about the misadventures of a group of four Colorado boys, criticized the news media Wednesday night for its overhyped coverage of Hurricane Katrina. In the episode, two of the boys, Stan Marsh and Eric Cartman, accidentally crash a boat into a beaver dam, flooding an entire town. In the aftermath, local and national media blame it on global warming, ridiculously exaggerate the extent of the damage, make up stories of rape, murder, "cannibalism," and tell tales of "hundreds of millions" of deaths in a town of 8,000 people.
Does the name “Aaron Broussard” ring a bell? Well, he is the president of Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, who was immortalized on NBC’s “Meet the Press” right after Hurricane Katrina hit when he suggested – with tears in his eyes – that the slow response by the federal government resulted in the unnecessary death of the mother of one of his colleagues. When it turned out that his claims were disputed by the son of the deceased woman, Tim Russert invited Broussard back on “Meet the Press,” and as was reported by NewsBusters, Russert let him off the hook again.
Last evening, Carl Quintanilla did a report on the “NBC Nightly News” about concerns being addressed by residents of Jefferson Parish that the drainage pump operators responsible for preventing flooding during storms were dismissed by Broussard before Katrina hit, and that this is why so many houses in the parish ended up being destroyed. These grievances have now become a class-action lawsuit against Broussard, a fact that was downplayed in Quintanilla's report.
Also missing in this piece were recent revelations that Broussard – in a possible effort to cover his tracks – is seeking to fire the head of the East Jefferson Levee District.
Yet, with all this intrigue, Quintanilla didn’t interview Broussard concerning any of these recent allegations, and, instead, chose to address e-mail messages that were transmitted between FEMA representatives in the midst of the disaster.
What follows are highlights from an article by the Associated Press concerning the class-action suit against Broussard, a Times-Picayune article about the firing of the Levee District chief, a full transcript of Quintanilla’s report with a video link, as well as video links of both Broussard appearances on “Meet the Press.”
In the classic backseat driver tradition, CBS News president Andrew Heyward said the "network news assignment editors should have been running FEMA" during Katrina.
Heyward also said the mainstream media's coverage of Katrina was superb, proving that the bloggers had not replaced it.
"No one on the Internet could match what the network and cable news did."
The news exec spoke these words as he accepted a Murrow award for overall excellence.
"Journalists had the courage to speak truth to power," Heyward said, although he was likely not referring to the media's overhyping of the level of water contamination and the amount of violence in New Orleans.
Unfortunately, journalists haven’t accurately reported the data involved.
Catastrophic events in America’s cities have a tendency to generate discussions about race, class, and poverty. The Watts riots in 1965, as well as the Rodney King riots in 1992 are fine examples. Hurricane Katrina has sparked another such debate. Unfortunately, America’s media are relying on consistently questionable or out-of-date statistics to not only exaggerate the problem, but to blame President Bush.
Staff writers Robert E. Pierre and Hamil Harris report today in the Metro section of the Washington Post on Louis "Farrakhan's Message of Defiance and Unity"* in his march planned for tomorrow in Washington, D.C., commemorating the 10th anniversary of the Million Man March.
Pierre and Harris bury Farrakhan's conspiracy theory rhetoric about the government bombing the levees in New Orleans deep into the article, and they completely ignore Farrakhan's charge that the federal government was involved in 9/11. As reported by CNSNews.com's Marc Morano yesterday:
At a National Press Club news conference Thursday, Farrakhan said his weekend Millions More Movement was intended to put a stop to the "lies, to thieves, to murderers in the name of government.
"When you have people who politically feel that they get their advantage by killing people and blaming it on somebody else, then it makes us wonder what really happened to the Twin Towers (in New York City)," a reference to the terrorist strikes against the U.S. four years ago that brought down the World Trade Center.
"Was the heat from fuel from two airplanes sufficient to compromise the steel in that building? (sic) People had said they heard explosions and the buildings came down like we see old buildings in Vegas or in Florida or in other places, implode," Farrakhan said. "So who was the victor there? Who got the advantage there? It wasn't the American people.
Bruce Thornton has a good article at JewishPress.com about journalists who raise a fuss and then ask people what they think of the fuss they've created.
Imagine that you started receiving letters in the mail accusing your neighbor of being a child molester. Occasionally you receive photographs or even a video showing the neighbor with a child on his lap or dressed up like a clown at a children`s party. After a couple of weeks of this, someone then phones you to ask if you think your neighbor is a pedophile. What percentage of us do you think would say yes?
There you have one of the media`s favorite devices for disguising opinion as news, one on display in the coverage of the disaster in New Orleans. At the very height of the disaster reporters solicited opinions from people about what was happening and why, and unsurprisingly, the majority of poor black people asked said Bush and the federal government were to blame, a perception echoed by Democrats and black politicians for obvious partisan reasons.
NBC's Tim Russert proclaimed, "It's a year away but the Democrats are feeling almost giddy this morning," as he ran down the negative news from NBC's own poll. Matt Lauer opened this morning's Today show with a teaser for the Russert political analysis segment:
Lauer: "Then to Washington where it rains it really pours. President Bush says he doesn't look at the poll numbers. He might not want to. The latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows his approval rating is at its lowest level ever. And there's some astounding numbers when it comes to African-Americans and their support for the President. Tim Russert's gonna be here and crunch those numbers in a little while."
During the media's coverage of Katrina the race card was played again and again so it's no surprise that Lauer and Russert led with the fruits of their labor.
The results of the most recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll were released last night, and pressrooms around the nation appeared to be pleased. “NBC Nightly News” reported it this way (video link to follow):
Tim Russert: Brian, not good news for George W. Bush's second term thus far. Only 39% of Americans approve his job. 54% disapproval. That 39% approval is the lowest in the five years of his presidency. And Brian, listen to this: Only 2%, 2% of African Americans in the United States approve of George Bush's handling of the presidency. The lowest we've ever seen in that particular measurement.
The truth: NOAA: Oct. 11, 2005 — NOAA completed additional analyses of fish, water and sediment samples collected from coastal and offshore marine waters of the Gulf of Mexico... The 154 fish and crab samples harbored no E. coli (Escherlchia coli), a bacteria associated with human or animal fecal contamination. Additional testing on shrimp samples taken from Mississippi Sound is ongoing. Analyses of water samples for indicators of human sewage or agricultural runoff found levels that are below the Environmental Protection Agency's safety limits for bathing beaches. These limits constitute the most stringent government standard for recreational waters. Fish muscle tissue analyzed for pesticides and other industrial chemicals, such as PCBs and DDTs show very low levels that are likely not related to hurricane runoff. The levels of PCBs ranged from 2.5 - 15 parts per billion and the levels of DDTs ranged from 0.8 - 2.2 parts per billion. The PCB levels found in these samples are far below the Food and Drug Administration's safety standards for commercial seafood and are similar to levels detected in fish in non-urbanized areas. (FDA's PCB limit is 2000 ppb, and their DDT limit is 5000 ppb). NOAA announced on September 29 that the first tests showed no elevated exposure to hydrocarbon contaminants, which are common in marine life after exposure to oil spills.
Wednesday's edition of The Oprah Winfrey Show was devoted to a look "Inside the Lives of America's Poor," coming out of the spirit of the reporting from hurricane Katrina. Once again, Oprah was outraged that anyone would disagree that whites would have drawn a better government response. She rambled a bit: "I got a couple of calls from some crazy people saying, and I mean that in the best way [laughter], people saying I was racist because how dare I imply -- and I think it was Lisa Ling who said on the show she couldn't imagine if this was a wealthy suburb -- how dare I imply -- and the woman said, 'Oprah, do you really think that if those were wealthy white Americans that the response time would have been any different? CNN's Anderson Cooper was there on set to reply: "Yeah, well, ask yourself the question, if that convention center in New Orleans had been filled with white suburban soccer moms, would the response have been different? I think it's a valuable question to ask. I think it's a good question to ask."
Byron Pitts did a story on last night’s “CBS Evening News” called “Nuevo New Orleans.” In it, Pitts reported a wave of legal and illegal immigrants coming into New Orleans seeking employment.
At a town hall meeting with small business owners, Mayor Ray Nagin said on camera: “How do I make sure that New Orleans is not overrun by Mexican workers?”
Given the recent outcry concerning statements made by Bill Bennett, one has to wonder why there is no similar outrage over Nagin’s remarks. Or, how about the way Pitts finishes the segment: “The worry here: Will it look like the old New Orleans when it's over?”
What follows is a full transcript of this report along with a video link.
Remember all those media predictions about the toxic nature of the floodwaters in New Orleans caused by Hurricane Katrina? Well, it appears that much like their prognostications of casualties, how long it was going to take to drain the city, and the likely devastation to America’s economy, this too was an extraordinary exaggeration.
Here’s a sampling of the press opinions concerning this water made shortly after Katrina hit:
ABC News reported on September 6: "Thousands of hurricane survivors who spent hours trapped in or wading through floodwaters likely exposed themselves to a wide range of bacteria and other contaminants.”
Reuters reported on September 7: “The brew of chemicals and human waste in the New Orleans floodwaters will have to be pumped into the Mississippi River or Lake Pontchartrain, raising the specter of an environmental disaster on the heels of Hurricane Katrina, experts say.”
The Christian Science Monitor reported on September 8: “Chemicals leaking from cars and factories will cause one of costliest environmental cleanups ever.”
On Tuesday's Today, Matt Lauer interviewed President Bush and First Lady Laura Bush at a house building zone for those who were affected by Katrina to live in, in which the President is contributing too. Lauer immediately accused Bush of using this as a photo-op situation.
Lauer continues the interview by asking President Bush why we are "making" Louisiana residents pay back the money they are borrowing for Katrina relief efforts, yet are not making the citizens pay back the money we spent in Iraq. Matt obviously has not learned the difference between asking to borrow and giving.
Readers of a September 22, 2005, Newsbusters story, posted by this writer, may be pleased to see that the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has written a letter to Air America radio host Randi Rhodes. The letter, posted publically at the ADL web site, was in response to inflammatory remarks by Rhodes on her September 21, 2005, show, in which she made an "on-air comparison between the evacuation of victims of hurricane Katrina and the deportation of Jews to Auschwitz during World War II." The ADL says that her "analogy comparing rescue operations -- as mismanaged as they may have been -- to Auschwitz deportations is a perversion of morality and history." Founded in 1913, the ADL is an organization committed to "combating anti-Semitism and bigotry of all kinds."
No matter how much she gets for her state, it’s never enough.
Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) was unhappy last Friday night. After sparring with Senate Republicans, including her counterpart from Louisiana, Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), she didn’t get what she wanted – $15 billion in hurricane-related loans to her state without any strings attached.
Now, don’t get me wrong, she did get some money -- $750 million to be exact. But the recipients are going to have to pay it back, and that’s not what Landrieu wanted. She felt that given everything Louisianans have gone through, these loans should have been totally forgivable, meaning that if the recipients didn’t want to reimburse America’s taxpayers, they didn’t have to.
If you invite the chubby kid from down the block to the birthday party, is it fair to criticize him for eating cake?
There was something of that lack of hospitality to the Today show's interview of President and Laura Bush this morning
For weeks now, Today has been reveling in its contribution to the Katrina relief effort, notably in its collaboration with Habitat for Humanity. Two weeks ago, Today transformed Rockefeller Plaza into "Humanity Plaza," erecting Habitat homes for transport to the stricken area.
This morning, the action moved to Covington, Louisiana, where a home was being erected on site. And who was there, hammer at the ready to lend a hand, but President Bush himself, accompanied by Laura.
Regardless of all the carping and whining over hurricane-related contracts going to Halliburton and Shaw Group due to potential ties to the Bush administration, as well as some of the awards being “no-bid,” there seems to be no such outrage if a company has ties to former President Clinton’s administration.
An article in today’s New York Times entitled “FEMA Director Under Clinton Profits From Experience” seems to celebrate former FEMA director James Lee Witt’s new company, as well as how it has profited from damages related to Hurricane Katrina:
Both the New York Times and the Washington Post reported yesterday that the levees in New Orleans were not overtopped by flood waters related to Katrina. Instead, as was reported by NBC News on September 29, and here on September 30, these levees broke due to construction failures related to the instability of the soil beneath them. Moreover, one of the contractors involved in their construction warned the Army Corps of Engineers about this problem in the early ’90s, but these cautions were ignored.
As yesterday’s Times article stated: “The engineers said the findings, which they warned were preliminary, raised questions about the design of the levees and the testing of the relatively fragile soil during the construction of the walls. They also said that on the 17th Street Canal, the source of the flooding in much of the main part of the city, the flood wall broke in an area where a contractor had complained to the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers that the soil that anchored the wall was dangerously soft.”
And, yesterday’s Washington Post stated: “In the early 1990s, a New Orleans-based contractor filed a legal claim against the Corps alleging that the soil beneath the floodwall on the 17th Street Canal was poor. A judge dismissed the contractor's complaint in 1996.”
These revelations raise an interesting question: Why aren’t the Times and the Post apologizing to their readers for and/or retracting earlier reports by their respective papers that the levee problems in New Orleans were caused by budget cuts implemented by President Bush?
September employment was little-changed despite predictions of 500,000 job losses.
Remember all those reports filed by the mainstream media predicting doom and gloom right after Katrina devastated New Orleans? Well, the first significant piece of economic data to be released since the hurricanes hit suggests that these media prognostications – as predicted by the Free Market Project on September 6 – had no basis in fact.
This morning, the Labor Department released employment numbers for the month of September, and they were much stronger than forecast. In fact, they were so strong that the U.S. dollar rallied against most of the world’s currencies in expectation that the Federal Reserve might raise interest rates further than many economists had hoped.
To refresh everyone’s memory, here is a sampling of what the media were saying about the economy after Katrina first made landfall:
The double-standards in today’s news coverage defy belief.
For most of September, Americans were bombarded almost 24 hours a day with declarations by media representatives and Democratic leaders as to the incompetence of President Bush.
During this time, we watched our president and members of his administration such as Homeland Security secretary Michael Chertoff and former Federal Emergency Management Agency director Michael Brown be humiliated by debasing and incendiary questions from reporters. Concurrently, we saw high-ranking Democrats such as Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Cal) state that our president was oblivious and dangerous.
We heard that it was all the Bush administration’s fault that so many people were helplessly trapped at the Superdome and the Convention Center. We heard of rapes, murders, and beatings at these locations. We heard of abysmal and almost unthinkable conditions all around New Orleans, that it was going to take months to drain the city, and that this, too, was the fault of the Bush administration.
Yet, when the water and smoke cleared at least a month ahead of schedule, a distinctly different picture emerged.
Hurricane devastation has left millions trying to rebuild their homes and lives. But flood-damage lawsuits against insurance companies now threaten the industry’s solvency across the country, and the broadcast media are helping make the case against industry.
According to reporters on CBS and NBC, the fact that some homeowners didn’t have flood insurance is “an ugly surprise” and a “hard lesson” for people “who thought their insurance companies would pay for the wreck they used to call home.”
Reporters have given the impression that Gulf Coast homeowners didn’t understand their insurance policies and that that might give them the legal standing to demand money they weren’t contracted to receive.
CBS’s Harry Smith introduced trial lawyer Richard Scruggs, famed for his $250 billion settlement from tobacco companies, on the October 5 “Early Show.” Scruggs has indicated plans to file suit against three private insurers for coastal clients, accusing insurance companies of misleading them and denying coverage for hurricane losses.
The New York Times reported on October 5 that Scruggs’ first suit, filed on October 4, centers on one Mississippi couple who did not have flood insurance. They say their insurance company misled them into thinking they had protection that they didn’t. Scruggs has said he might file more than 1,000 similar suits, avoiding a class-action suit.
CNN’s Kelly Wallace interviewed former president Bill Clinton for an “American Morning” segment today while he was visiting Hurricane Katrina evacuees. Although the intention was to discuss the money that Clinton and former president Bush have raised for hurricane relief, as well as how they plan on spending this money, CNN couldn’t help but include a few digs for the current president.
The first came from a New Orleans evacuee sitting in a “roundtable” discussion with Clinton:
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What was the difference? Why we couldn't get the attention and the help that Texas got, when a whole -- I mean, from the east bank to the west bank was destroyed?
The next shot came from Wallace herself in a voice-over: “Along the way, he steered clear of criticizing the Bush administration's response to Katrina and how he thinks the president should roll back tax cuts for the wealthy to help pay for rebuilding the Gulf Coast.”
What follows is a full-transcript of this report, along with a video link.
The Washington Post has an article about where the real blame lies for a slow response to Hurricane Katrina.
News of Pandemonium May Have Slowed Aid: Unsubstantiated Reports of Violence Were Confirmed by Some Officials, Spread by News Media
Claims of widespread looting, gunfire directed at helicopters and rescuers, homicides, and rapes, including those of "babies" at the Louisiana Superdome, frequently turned out to be overblown, if not completely untrue, officials now say.... The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported that National Guard troops found 30 to 40 bodies decomposing inside a freezer in the convention center, including a girl whose throat was slashed. The newspaper quoted a member of the Arkansas National Guard, which was deployed in the building. Other news organizations then passed the information on. That, too, was untrue.
In communities near and far, the seeds were planted that the victims of Katrina should be kept away, or at least handled with extreme caution.
That is a very important point. By referring to the people of New Orleans as vicious savages, the media did more to stereotype minorities and destroy race relations in this country than Bill Bennett ever did.
Somebody took the leash off Andy tonight! Andy Rooney was in rare form! Not that this will be a shock to anyone, but Andy Rooney attacked the Bush Administration tonight. I thought CBS was going to have a new culture after the embarassment from Rathergate? I thought CBS, "60 Minutes", etc, were going to work on a new culture on reporting the truth with their news segments? Obviously, this does not apply with Andy. Not only was Andy sneering with his attacks on the Bush Administration and the military tonight, but his arguments were just not true! I realize that Andy has an opinion segment, but that still should not allow him to push un-truths.
The following two reports from CNN (videos to follow) give us an amazing contrast between the efficiency of business in America, and the inefficiency of government.
Today, the city of New Orleans announced that it is laying off 3,000 government employees, or 40 percent of the city's payroll, due to budget constraints. By contrast, in the same city hit by the same hurricanes, small and large businesses have a diametrically opposite problem – they can’t find enough people to work FOR them, and are at times willing to pay any sum to achieve such a goal.
To a large extent, this perfectly represents the disparate views being offered by America’s major political parties concerning the reconstruction of this region:
The Democrats want the federal government to finance assistance programs to help the people in this area
The Republicans want to create tax incentives and enterprise zones to encourage business development that spurs economic growth and hiring in the region
On CNN's In the Money today, Jack Cafferty suggested that President Bush is devoting too much time to the natural disasters in the southeastern United States: "President Bush is calling on Americans to drive less, in between the trips on Air Force One to the Gulf Coast, which seems to be happening about every six hours in the last week or ten days."
Yet only weeks ago, Cafferty was berating the President for not doing enough. On August 31, he sarcastically asked Wolf Blitzer, host of CNN's The Situation Room, "Where's President Bush? Is he still on vacation?" When Blitzer told him that Mr. Bush was cutting his vacation short because of the devastation, Cafferty said that "would be a good idea."
It seems that as time progresses, we are going to continually be apprised of errors and poor assumptions that were reported to us during the days that followed the recent hurricane disaster in New Orleans. Last night, “NBC Nightly News” peeled back the curtain on another misconception that was proffered by most media outlets right after Katrina hit, namely that the poor condition of New Orleans’ levees was the fault of the Bush administration.
Lisa Myers last evening told the nation otherwise:
“NBC news has obtained what may be a key clue hidden in these long-forgotten legal documents. They reveal that when this floodwall on the 17th street canal was built a decade ago, there were major construction problems, problems brought to the attention of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. This document shows that the contractor, Pittman construction, told the Corps of Engineers that the soil and the foundation for the walls were not of sufficient strength, rigidity, and stability to build on.”
Her report goes on in some detail with the help of former Army Corps of Engineers workers and college professors to outline that it was known more than a decade ago while President Clinton was in the White House that the earth under many of these floodwalls was not stable enough. A link provided in the text version of this report at MSNBC's website shows the legal decision of the Corps' judge concerning this matter, and that all Pittman wanted was another $809,659 plus an additional 80 days to do the work properly. Their request was denied.
What follows is a full transcript of this report, a link to the Corps judge's ruling, and a video link.
"The New Orleans Times-Picayune on Monday described inflated body counts, unverified 'rapes,' and unconfirmed sniper attacks as among examples of 'scores of myths about the dome and Convention Center treated as fact by evacuees, the media and even some of New Orleans' top officials'....
"Journalists and officials who have reviewed the Katrina disaster blamed the inaccurate reporting in large measure on the breakdown of telephone service, which prevented dissemination of accurate reports to those most in need of the information. Race may have also played a factor.
In the weeks that have followed Hurricane Katrina hitting New Orleans, much of the mainstream media have been pointing a finger of blame at the federal government for not properly funding that city’s levee system. This morning, CNN did a report that tears some holes in this premise.
On “American Morning,” John King visited South Lafourche Parish, Louisiana, a coastal community just thirty-five miles south of New Orleans. What he found was quite surprising: a town that has been hit by Katrina and Rita just like New Orleans, but has not suffered near the damage.
Why? Well, because the local community decided to augment federal funds for their levee system with local tax dollars to install higher quality storm and hurricane protection than what surrounding parishes and cities did. As a result, CNN this morning gave us all a wonderful look at what happens in this nation when local communities look out for themselves without relying on the federal government's protection.
What follows is a full-transcript of this interview, along with a video link.
On this morning's Today Katie Couric and Tim Russert looked like NFL linebackers diving for a loose ball as they piled on Bush from so many different directions. First up was the gas price angle:
Couric: "I know the President is calling on the American public to conserve gasoline by driving less and he even sent a memo to all federal agency and department heads saying, the federal government, quote, 'must lead by example and further contribute to the relief effort by reducing its own fuel use during this difficult time.' How much political pressure is the President under given these rising fuel costs?"
Russert: "Enormous, Katie. It's the one issue that cuts across all class and geographic lines and as we just heard in Alexis' report it's not only gasoline cost for this fall but come this winter particularly in the Midwest and Northeast there's expectations that fuel heating costs can go up as much as 70 percent. Enormous political pressure. Why? Those are the battleground, undecided states that Republicans must continue to control to retain and control both houses of Congress."