Reporting on Bush pre-Katrina briefing, NY Times, Wash. Post, USA Today entirely forgot Bush claim that no one anticipated levee breaches

››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER

On March 2, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and USA Today reported on newly released video footage and transcripts documenting how, on the day before Hurricane Katrina made landfall, President Bush was warned -- and expressed concern -- about the possibility that the levees in New Orleans would be breached by the storm. But none of these reports mentioned that these new tapes further contradict the claim Bush made on ABC's Good Morning America several days after the storm hit that "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees."

On March 2, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and USA Today reported on newly released video footage and transcripts documenting how, on the day before Hurricane Katrina made landfall, President Bush was warned -- and expressed concern -- over the possibility that the levees in New Orleans would be breached by the storm. But none of the reports mentioned that these new accounts of government deliberations before the storm further contradict the claim Bush made on ABC's Good Morning America several days after the storm hit that "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees," which was debunked even at the time.

By contrast, a March 2 Associated Press report noted that, contrary to Bush's claim that the levee breaches were completely unexpected, "the transcripts and video show there was plenty of talk about that possibility -- and Bush was worried too." A March 2 Los Angeles Times article also suggested that the new footage conflicts with Bush's claim that the levee breaches were unanticipated.

From the March 2 New York Times article, by reporters Scott Shane and David D. Kirkpatrick:

In the videoconference held at noon on Monday, Aug. 29, Michael D. Brown, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, reported that he had spoken with President Bush twice in the morning and that the president was asking about reports that the levees had been breached.

But asked about the levees by Joe Hagin, the White House deputy chief of staff, Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco of Louisiana said, "We have not breached the levee at this point in time." She said "that could change" and noted that the floodwaters in some areas in and around New Orleans were 8 to 10 feet deep. Later that night, FEMA notified the White House that the levees had been breached.

From the March 2 Washington Post report, by staff writers Spencer S. Hsu and Linton Weeks:

Then-Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Michael D. Brown, who joined the call from Washington, and Max Mayfield, head of the National Hurricane Center in Miami, briefed participating federal and state officials in explicit terms.

"This is, to put it mildly, the big one," Brown said. "Everyone within FEMA is now virtually on call."

[...]

"This hurricane is much larger than Hurricane Andrew ever was," Mayfield said. "I also want to make absolutely clear to everyone that the greatest potential for large loss of life is still in the coastal areas from the storm surge."

[...]

Duffy noted that a transcript of the Aug. 29 conference showed Hagin asking about the status of the Superdome and New Orleans levees. In the same conference, Brown said he spoke twice that morning with Bush, who he said was "very engaged" and asking those same questions and others about city hospitals.

From the March 2 USA Today report, by staff writer Mimi Hall:

On the day before Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, the head of the National Hurricane Center told President Bush that the city's levees were "a very, very grave concern," a newly released videotape shows.

The video of hurricane center chief Max Mayfield's remarks, made Aug. 28 in a presidential videoconference briefing, was obtained and released by the Associated Press on Wednesday night [March 1]. The video was replayed on television news shows, cable channels and across the Internet.

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy
Network/Outlet
The Washington Post, The New York Times, USA Today
Stories/Interests
Hurricane Katrina
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