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During the "All-Star Panel" segment of the September 19 edition of Fox News' Special Report, host Brit Hume and Fox News contributors Mara Liasson and Charles Krauthammer distorted New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin's evacuation and re-entry plans for the city in response to Hurricane Katrina.
First, Hume suggested that the call for a mandatory evacuation of New Orleans "came from Washington," to which Liasson, who also is National Public Radio's (NPR) national political correspondent, readily agreed. Yet according to a September 15 New York Times report on former Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) director Michael D. Brown's version of events, on the morning of August 28, Brown and President Bush discussed the possibility of Bush approaching Nagin about a mandatory evacuation, but Nagin decided "apparently on his own" to announce the mandatory evacuation in a press conference that day. Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco stated during the press conference that "just before" it began, Bush had called her to ensure that such precautions would be taken -- casting further doubt over the suggestion that Bush's phone call triggered the decision to evacuate. As Media Matters for America has documented, on September 5 Hume baselessly claimed that Nagin called for the evacuation only after Bush "pleaded" with him.
Then Krauthammer, a Washington Post columnist, speciously characterized Nagin's re-entry plan for New Orleans as a proposal to "let the good times roll and have everybody return, which is obviously impossible." In fact, prior to rescinding his re-entry plan in response to another potential hurricane -- Tropical Storm Rita -- Nagin had called for only a partial repopulation of New Orleans in areas deemed safe. The New York Times reported on September 19, when Nagin's re-entry proposal was still active: "The mayor's plan to reopen parts of New Orleans could bring back as many as 180,000 residents, about a third of the population."
Along with mischaracterizing the mayor's re-entry plan, Krauthammer derided Nagin as a "piece of work," apparently offering as evidence that Nagin "spent Saturday [September 10] in Dallas setting up his family in their new house." But Nagin has said he will remain in New Orleans while his children go to school in Dallas for six months, and he did not, in fact, purchase a house in Dallas as originally reported -- he rented a condominium, as the New Orleans Times-Picayune clarified in a September 16 correction.
From the September 19 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:
HUME: Let's take a flashback here to several weeks ago, when the idea was, here comes Katrina. You need to get the city -- you need to get the city evacuated, on a mandatory way. That came from Washington, right?
LIASSON: Yeah. He [Nagin] eventually gave a mandatory evacuation order, and it wasn't able to be fulfilled for the people who didn't have their own transportation out of town.
KRAUTHAMMER: The mayor is a piece of work. I mean, he just spent Saturday in Dallas setting up his family in their new house, and then he returns when he's got to be making life-and-death decisions and decides he wants to let the good times roll and have everybody return, which is obviously impossible.