Fox News correspondent Wendell Goler falsely claimed that "[s]tories in The Washington Post ... accused the Army Corps of Engineers of using substandard soil to rebuild the levees" in New Orleans and suggested that the Post omitted the Corps' side of the story. In fact, the Post, in three news articles, merely reported the concerns of engineering experts who have monitored the levee rebuilding effort; and contrary to Goler's suggestion, the Post's reports all included statements from the Corps of Engineers denying the scientists' accusations that the Corps had used substandard materials.
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On the March 8 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume, Fox News White House correspondent Wendell Goler falsely claimed that "[s]tories in The Washington Post today and Monday accused the Army Corps of Engineers of using substandard soil to rebuild the levees" in New Orleans, sections of which were damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. He then noted that the Corps of Engineers has denied that it is using substandard materials to rebuild the New Orleans levee system -- suggesting that the Post omitted the Corps' side of the story. In fact, the Post, in three news articles, merely reported the concerns of two teams of engineering experts, one from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and another from Louisiana State University (LSU), who have monitored the levee rebuilding effort; the Post did not "accuse" the Army Corps of Engineers of anything. And contrary to Goler's suggestion, the Post's reports all included statements from the Corps of Engineers denying the scientists' accusations that the Corps had used substandard materials.
Citing "engineers from a National Science Foundation-funded panel and a Louisiana team appointed to monitor the rebuilding," a front-page Post article on March 6 reported:
These experts say the Corps, racing to rebuild 169 miles of levees destroyed or damaged by Katrina, is taking shortcuts to compress what is usually a years-long construction process into a few weeks. They say that weak, substandard materials are being used in some levee walls, citing lab tests as evidence. And they say the Corps is deferring repairs to flood walls that survived Katrina but suffered structural damage that could cause them to topple in a future storm.
The newspaper published follow-up stories on March 7 (Page A4, "Washington in Brief") and March 8 (Page A8). The March 8 article reported that a member of the NSF team, University of Berkeley engineering professor Raymond Seed, had written a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers commander, Lt. Gen Carl A. Strock, expressing the team's concerns. Seed told the Post that "the problems were observed in at least three locations along an 11-mile earthen levee near Lake Borgne, east of New Orleans, that was nearly washed away by Hurricane Katrina on Aug. 29."
As of March 9, the Post has published no editorials on the subject.
Furthermore, Goler's suggestion that the Post articles omitted the Corps of Engineers' side of the controversy is false. All three of the articles on the controversy prominently included the Corps' denials:
- March 6, third paragraph:
The Corps strongly disputes the assertion [by the NSF and LSU engineering teams] that substandard materials are being used in construction. Agency officials maintain that the new levees are rigorously inspected at each step.
- March 7, first paragraph:
The White House yesterday defended the quality of materials being used to rebuild the levees around New Orleans, as President Bush got assurances from the Army Corps of Engineers that it was on track to restore the system by the start of hurricane season.
Lt. Gen. Carl Strock, head of the Corps, told Bush in a private briefing that 100 miles of the 169 miles of levees damaged by the Aug. 29 hurricane have been restored. He repeated the briefing later for reporters at the White House.
- March 8, fourth paragraph:
Corps and White House officials disputed the findings by Seed's group and another expert panel monitoring the rebuilding. Strock specifically sought to rebut the groups' conclusions at a White House news conference Monday, saying Corps engineers were "giving tremendous scrutiny" to construction practices.
"We are using the right material," Strock said, "and we're putting it down the right way."
From the March 8 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:
GOLER: Mr. Bush also accused Congress of shortchanging the rebuilding of New Orleans' levees by diverting to other states money he had earmarked for reinforcing the levees, for adding floodgates, and raising pumping stations above sea level. He said that's another key to reviving the city.
BUSH [video clip]: We fully understand that, if people don't have confidence in the levee system, they're not going to want to come back.
GOLER: The Bush administration was already denying charges of substandard repairs on the levees. Stories in The Washington Post today and Monday accused the Army Corps of Engineers of using substandard soil to rebuild the levees. Not so, says Lieutenant General Carl Strock.
STROCK [video clip]: We are actually importing a great quantity of material from Mississippi, because there are not -- there are not suitable soils sufficient in the areas.