Monday, September 26, 2005

More Katrina

As you may know by now, Aaron Broussard's tearful story of an old woman who died due to FEMA's ineptitude has been debunked. He originally said:

Mr. Broussard: Sir, they were told, like me, every single day, “The cavalry is coming.” On the federal level, “The cavalry is coming. The cavalry’s coming. The cavalry’s coming.” The guy who runs this building I’m in, emergency management, he’s responsible for everything. His mother was trapped in St. Bernard Nursing Home and every day she called him and said, “Are you coming, son? Is somebody coming?” And he said, “Yeah, Mama. Somebody’s coming to get you. Somebody’s coming to get you on Tuesday.” “Somebody’s coming to get you on Wednesday.” “Somebody’s coming to get you on Thursday.” “Somebody’s coming to get you on Friday.” And she drowned Friday night. She drowned Friday night.

The owners of the nursing home are now known to have failed to evacuate when Katrina was coming, and are under arrest for negligent homicide, and the original story was wrong almost all the way around:

When told of the sequence of phone calls that Broussard described, Rodrigue said `No, no, that's not true. ...I contacted the nursing home two days before the storm [on Saturday, Aug. 27th] and again on [Sunday] the 28th. ...At the same time I talked to the nursing home I had also talked to the emergency encourage that nursing home to evacuate...' Rodrigue says he never made any calls after Monday, the day he figures his mother died... Officials believe the residents of St. Rita's died on Monday, the 29th, not on Friday, Sept. 2, as Broussard has suggested."

The Moderate Voice and Crooks and Liars, among others, take issue with how Russert handled this, for various reasons. TMV seems to feel that Russert went after the source, not the story, and by implication tried to make the Federal response all that much better. C&L seems to take issue with how Russert handled it, calling it "callous". (These are all my takes from their posts, of course.) I didn't see the interview and won't on my computer - I'm still on dial-up and watching videos is just slightly slower than waiting for Bush to take responsibillity for any errors he makes. However, if the story was wrong, it should have been corrected. It was a damning and personal instance on supposed FEMA errors and deserves to be checked out and honestly told. I can't say for how it was done or for what ulterior reasons, but the underlying truth must come out.

It seems like people who want to believe the Federal gov't is the only one at fault shrug aside this correction, saying 'there were other instances of FEMA errors' and the like. Which is true - but it doesn't make this story true by association. On the other hand, people who feel the Federal gov't are not to blame at all seem to take this story as proof that all claims of FEMA/Homeland Security mismanagement are false. Again, not true. By the same token, reports that the violence in the Superdome was drastically exaggerated has had some people crowing the Federal government didn't do a bad job after all, instead of saying that that's one area where they had misjudged Louisana - since before this news all the violence was Louisana's fault, not the Fed's (and if there was no violence...?) and the people who blame the Feds for everything again shrug their shoulders.

These two stories need to be truthfully told. (The media has to shoulder much blame here. Not biased, just bad.) But the debunking of one or two stories does not invalidate the many others by proxy. There are still several things all sides must be held accountable for.

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