Bush's 'Omission' of Katrina/Gulf Coast Hardship Treated as Scandalous

A night after CNN anchors fretted about how Katrina and the recovering Gulf region were “thunderously missing” from President Bush's State of the Union address, CBS and NBC picked up the cause. CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric regretted on Wednesday night how “there was not one mention of Katrina, though the suffering and hardship continue.” Noting that “there are still 13,000 people living in FEMA trailers,” Couric asserted: “Some who lost everything are asking, 'What about us?'” Reporter Armen Keteyian, a veteran of HBO's Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, featured one New Orleans man who, “like many here, watched the President's speech, his rage rising with every word." Keteyian listed how “there were 5,596 words in the President's speech last night,” and insisted that “reaction to the fact that not a single one was either Katrina or Louisiana was felt...all across the Gulf." Kateyian concluded with how “words like 'relief' and 'recovery' now seem as empty to them as last night's presidential address.”

Leading into an image of a headline in the New Orleans Times-Picayune, “New Orleans left out of president's script,” as if a local newspaper story should have national import, David Gregory highlighted on Wednesday's NBC Nightly News: “That focus on Iraq, and the political toll it's taken, has led the White House to divert its attention from other priorities -- like rebuilding New Orleans after Katrina. Last night, not a word. The omission was headline news.”

A Tuesday night NewsBusters item, “CNN: Katrina 'Thunderously Missing' from Bush Speech, Gulf Residents 'Upset,'” outlined the distress expressed by CNN's Wolf Blitzer and Anderson Cooper.

The MRC's Brad Wilmouth corrected the closed-captioning against the video for the January 24 CBS Evening News story:
Katie Couric: "In his State of the Union Address, President Bush took note of the unrest in Lebanon as well as the suffering in Darfur, but there was not one mention of Katrina, though the suffering and hardship continue. The federal government has spent $80 billion on recovery efforts in the Gulf region, but there are still 13,000 people living in FEMA trailers. And as chief investigative reporter Armen Keteyian reports, some who lost everything are asking, 'What about us?'"

Armen Keteyian: "It sits on a flat gravel mud-soaked lot, the irony of the name [“Mt. Olive Gardens”] not lost on its residents. Seventeen months after Katrina, nearly 200 people uprooted by a hurricane still live in Mt. Olive Gardens, whole families packed into 200 square foot FEMA trailers they now call home."

Chris Davis: "God can't let this happen."

Keteyian: "Chris Davis is one of the displaced from New Orleans now living near Baton Rouge. Like many here, he watched the President's speech, his rage rising with every word."

Davis: "At this time, I almost broke my TV and knocked it off the stand, you know?"

Keteyian: "A Vietnam vet, Davis lost a job as a ship builder to Katrina, now in a place where crime's a constant worry, and children rarely venture outside. He's long since lost hope."

Davis: "It gets hopeless and more hopeless every day."

Keteyian: "Toni Bankston, a mental health case worker, couldn't believe what the President wasn't saying."

Toni Bankston: "People were already feeling forgotten, and I think that this may potentially reinforce that."

Keteyian: "There were 5,596 words in the President's speech last night, and reaction to the fact that not a single one was either Katrina or Louisiana was felt not only here in tiny Mt. Olive Gardens, but all across the Gulf."

Governor Kathleen Blanco (D-LA): "The pains of the hurricane are yesterday's news in Washington."

Raymond Jetson, Louisiana Family Recovery Corps: "There's been a lot said, very little done, and now we've evolved to the point where there's even very little, if nothing, being said."

Keteyian: "To a point where in places like Mt. Olive Gardens, words like 'relief' and 'recovery' now seem as empty to them as last night's presidential address. Armen Keteyian, CBS News, Baton Rouge, Louisiana."
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center