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Right-Wing Myths About Katrina, Debunked

By ThinkProgress on September 13, 2005 at 1:25 pm

"Right-Wing Myths About Katrina, Debunked"

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There are a lot of right-wing myths about Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. ThinkProgress has created this guide to help you set the record straight.

CLAIM — STATE AND LOCAL OFFICIALS WERE MOSTLY RESPONSIBLE FOR FAILURES: “White House Shifts Blame to State and Local Officials” [Washington Post, 9/4/05]

FACT – BUSH PUT FEMA IN CHARGE OF EFFORT BEFORE KATRINA STRUCK: “Specifically, FEMA is authorized to identify, mobilize, and provide at its discretion, equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency.” [White House, 8/27/05]

FACT — FEDERAL GOVERNMENT ABLE TO ACT WITHOUT PERMISSION FROM STATES: The Wall Street Journal: “Mr. Chertoff activated the National Response Plan last Tuesday by declaring the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina an ‘Incident of National Significance.’ The plan, which was rolled out to much fanfare in January, essentially enables Washington to move federal assets to the disaster without waiting for requests from state officials.” [Wall Street Journal, 9/13/05]

CLAIM — NO ONE COULD HAVE PREDICTED BREACHED LEVEES: On ABC’s Good Morning America, Bush said, “I don’t think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees.” [Good Morning America, 9/1/05]

FACT — LEVEE BREACH PREDICTED REPEATEDLY: Responding to Bush’s comments on Meet the Press, Dr. Ivor Van Heerden of the LSU Hurricane Center “I didn’t buy that because, you know, we had discussed on numerous occasions that a worst-case scenario would be if we had one of these major hurricanes and then we lost the levee systems.” A White House advisor sat in on the “Hurricane Pam Exercise,” a computer simulation of the possible effects of a Category 3 hurricane on New Orleans. The exercise found that “”¦a storm like Hurricane Pam would: cause flooding that would leave 300,000 people trapped in New Orleans, many of whom would not have private transportation for evacuation.” [Meet the Press, 9/11/05]

CLAIM — GOV. BLANCO DELAYED STATE OF EMERGENCY DECLARATION: In a Sept. 4 Washington Post article, which was corrected hours later, an anonymous Bush administration source claimed Governor Blanco had not yet declared a state of emergency in Louisiana. The Post reported, “As of Saturday, Blanco still had not declared a state of emergency, the senior Bush official said.” [Washington Post, 9/4/05]

FACT — GOV. KATHLEEN BLANCO DECLARED A STATE OF EMERGENCY IN LOUISIANA ON AUGUST 26: Three days prior to when Katrina made landfall. [Office of the Governor, 8/26/05]

CLAIM — GOVERNORS WANTED FEMA TO BE WEAK: Brit Hume: “FEMA, first of all, is not a first responder. FEMA is basically a tiny little agency that has been kept weak. And you know why it’s been kept weak? The governors want it that way.” [Fox News Sunday, 9/11/05]

FACT — STATE OFFICIAL COMPLAINED ABOUT WEAKENING OF FEMA UNDER BUSH: “State and local disaster-relief officials have been complaining about the lack of federal involvement in emergency response for some time. Trina Sheets, the executive director of the National Emergency Management Association, which represents local emergency personnel, told Salon that “since the Department of Homeland Security was established there has been a steady degradation of the capabilities.” [Salon, 9/7/05]

CLAIM — RESIDENTS WHO REMAINED IN NEW ORLEANS ARE TO BLAME FOR NOT EVACUATING: Sen. Rick Santorum said, “I mean, you have people who don’t heed those warnings and then put people at risk as a result of not heeding those warnings. There may be a need to look at tougher penalties on those who decide to ride it out and understand that there are consequences to not leaving.” [Associated Press, 9/6/05]

FACT — MOST RESIDENTS WHO REMAINED COULDN’T AFFORD TO LEAVE: New York Times: “The victims, they note, were largely black and poor, those who toiled in the background of the tourist havens, living in tumbledown neighborhoods that were long known to be vulnerable to disaster if the levees failed. Without so much as a car or bus fare to escape ahead of time, they found themselves left behind by a failure to plan for their rescue should the dreaded day ever arrive.” [New York Times, 9/2/05]

CLAIM — BUSH “STRUCK THE RIGHT BALANCE” BETWEEN HIRING POLITICAL CRONIES AND EXPERIENCED PROFESSIONALS: Vice President Cheney said Bush had “struck the right balance between political appointees and career professionals to oversee the relief efforts.” [AP, 9/8/05]

FACT — MOST TOP FEMA OFFICIALS WERE POLITICAL HACKS: “Five of eight top Federal Emergency Management Agency officials came to their posts with virtually no experience in handling disasters.” [Washington Post, 9/9/05]

CLAIM — MAYOR NAGIN LEFT 2,000 SCHOOL BUSES BEHIND IN THE FLOOD: Sean Hannity said, “You would have thought that the 2,000 buses, school buses, that sat in the yards would have been used to help those people that were incapable of getting out on their own, but none of that had happened locally.” [Hannity and Colmes, 9/6/05]

FACT — NEW ORLEANS HAD LESS THAN 300 WORKING SCHOOL BUSES: “The [Orleans Parish school] district owns 324 buses but 70 are broken down.” [New Orleans Times-Picayune, 9/5/05]

CLAIM: LOCAL OFFICIALS DESERVE BLAME FOR LACK OF EVACUATION BUSES : Rick Santorum claimed, “Many didn’t have cars … And that really was a failure on the part of local officials in not making transportation available to get people out.” [Times Leader, 9/6/05]

FACT: LOUISIANA NATIONAL GUARD REQUESTED 700 BUSES FROM FEMA FOR EVACUATIONS, FEMA ONLY SENT 100: The Boston Globe reported, “On Sunday, the day before the storm, the Louisiana National Guard asked FEMA for 700 buses to evacuate people. It received only 100.” [Boston Globe, 9/11/05]

CLAIM — MILITARY NOT STRETCHED THIN BY IRAQ: President Bush said, “We’ve got plenty of troops to do both. Let me just — let me just talk about that again. I’ve answered this question before, and you can speak to General Honore if you care to. He’s the military man on the ground. It is preposterous to claim that the engagement in Iraq meant there wasn’t enough troops here, just pure and simple.” [White House, 9/12/05]

FACT — MILITARY LEADERS SAY IRAQ HAMPERED THEIR EFFORTS AFTER KATRINA: National Guard Chief Lt. Gen. Steven Blum said, “Had that (Mississippi and Louisiana) brigade been at home and not in Iraq, their expertise and capabilities could have been brought to bear.” The Washington Post reported “In Louisiana and Mississippi, civilian and military leaders said the response to the hurricane was delayed by the absence of the Mississippi National Guard’s 155th Infantry Brigade and Louisiana’s 256th Infantry Brigade, each with thousands of troops in Iraq.” [AP, 9/10/05, Washington Post, 9/10/05]

CLAIM: NEWSPAPERS REPORTED NEW ORLEANS HAD BEEN SPARED SIGNIFICANT HURRICANE DAMAGE: Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff said, “I remember on Tuesday morning picking up newspapers and I saw headlines, ‘New Orleans Dodged The Bullet.’” [Meet the Press, 9/4/05]

FACT: HEADLINES ACROSS THE COUNTRY ANNOUNCED “CATASTROPHIC” DAMAGE TO NEW ORLEANS: The Tuesday, August 30th edition of the Times-Picayune led with a banner headline reading, “CATASTROPHIC: Storm Surge Swamps 9th Ward, St. Bernard; Lakeview Levee Breach Threatens to Inundate City.” Dozens of other major newspapers led with headlines describing Katrina’s horrifying aftermath. [Times-Picayune, 8/30/05; Newseum via Wonkette]

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