Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani isn’t exactly famous for his tact, but he kicked his penchant for overstatement into overdrive this Sunday, twice falsely claiming that the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) response to Hurricane Sandy was worse than its botched response to Hurricane Katrina under President George W. Bush.
Speaking at a Romney campaign office in Florida, Giuliani said “[Obama] right now is doing a terrible job of disaster relief in my city, but no one is talking about it…People don’t have water, they don’t have food, electricity and his FEMA is no where to be found. This is a worse response than Katrina.” He also levelled the charge during a Fox News appearance, telling host Neil Cavuto that the notion FEMA was doing a good job was a “joke:”
I think maybe because there’s an election going on, people don’t want to say that, but I think FEMA has dropped the ball, certainly as big they did with Katrina, maybe bigger because they had more warning here and the situation isn’t as big as Katrina.
Giuliani’s view is at odds with the assessment of virtually every other observer of the agency’s performance during the two storms. While the Bush Administration’s famously incompetent response to Katrina delayed the provision of critical federal aid by days and poorly distributed it, FEMA had 1,500 well-organized workers on the ground the day after Sandy hit, which former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security and FEMA critic Paul Rosenzweig called “a massive and admirable [sic] effort.” The New York Times reported that after Bush’s FEMA became “a symbol of pitiful incompetence” post-Katrina, the agency’s recent efforts have “done much to shore up its image” among experts on disaster response and in Congress. Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT), who chairs the Senate’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said that “FEMA is a very different organization than it was during Katrina…[FEMA] was proactive, and it didn’t used to be. It doesn’t wait for the storm to hit; it pre-positions personnel, equipment, food supplies, water, etc.”
Several prominent members of Giuliani’s own party share Lieberman’s assessment. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, one of the leaders faced with most difficult post-Sandy reconstruction, said “The federal government’s response has been great…The President has been outstanding in this and so have the folks at FEMA.” Ed Gillespie, a senior adviser to Mitt Romney’s Presidential campaign, said Governor Romney had no quarrel with President Obama’s handling of the situation. Gillespie added that “from what we’ve heard from the governors, they’re working well with FEMA” and that “there’s a good working relationship between the state and the federal government.”