News outlets inaccurately cited $35 million as initial Bush administration tsunami relief package


In their coverage of the Bush administration's tsunami aid package, several news outlets have incorrectly reported that the administration initially committed $35 million to countries and people affected by the December 26 disaster. In fact, the administration's initial pledge was for $15 million, which was increased to $35 million following widespread criticism of that initial commitment. The administration's pledge was later increased from $35 million to $350 million on December 31.

Ed Fox, assistant administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), announced the figure of $15 million, calling it an "initial response," at a December 27 press conference, in which Secretary of State Colin Powell also participated:

FOX: As the Secretary [Powell] had said, not only have we responded, both in terms of the short run, with $400,000 to the various embassies and also a large commitment to the International Red Cross and Red Crescent, but it's anticipated that we'll add another -- at least immediately -- another probably $10 million, for a total of about $15 million, in our initial response to this tragedy.

On January 3, in an article on the United States' most recent pledge of $350 million in aid, The Washington Post, for example, did accurately report that the Bush administration initially pledged only $15 million. However, numerous news outlets have inaccurately reported $35 million as the amount of the Bush administration's initial pledge.

A January 3 Associated Press article reported:

"It's been seven days and in seven days, we have launched a carrier battle group. We have launched an amphibious battle group. We have contributed $350 million," [Secretary of State Colin] Powell said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press." The United States' initial pledge of $35 million drew criticism.

The Associated Press also reported on January 2:

Powell, whose Asia trip includes stops in Thailand, Indonesia and perhaps Sri Lanka, defended the Bush administration against criticism it reacted slowly to the crisis with an initial pledge of $35 million, since increased to $350 million.

Host Chris Wallace said the following on the January 2 edition of Fox Broadcasting Company's FOX News Sunday:

The initial pledge, which was $35 million, is in fact less money than was going to be spent on President Bush's inauguration. And the current number of $350 million is still pretty small compared to the $13 billion the Congress allocated for hurricane relief in Florida last fall.

CNN correspondent Elaine Quijano said the following in a report that appeared on the January 2 edition of CNN Sunday Night and the January 1 edition of CNN Live Saturday:

One day after upping the U.S.' initial aid pledge from $35 million to $350 million, President Bush in his weekly radio address ordered another show of support for the tsunami victims.

A January 1 Knight Ridder article stated:

Meanwhile, the White House said the United States would provide $350 million in aid for victims of the disaster, well above its initial pledge of $35 million.

Though the January 3 edition of The New York Times ran a Reuters article referring to "Washington ha[ving] been blasted for its initial $15 million aid commitment," a January 1 Times article read as follows:

In spirit and on paper, the relief program gathered momentum yesterday. President Bush increased the initial American pledge of $35 million to $350 million after Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and other officials told him the need would increase sharply in the weeks ahead.

CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson, while discussing the dramatic increase in the volume of online contributions to Catholic Relief Services, said the following on the December 30 edition of the CBS Evening News:

The totals change by the minute, but a CBS News tally shows online donations alone will likely exceed the federal government's initial $35 million pledge.

CNN White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux said the following about the proposed long-term American support for the nations affected by the tsunamis on the December 30 edition of CNN's American Morning:

He [President Bush] pledged that it would be much more than the $35 million initially offered by the United States. He also said he was working the phones, calling the leaders of those most affected by the disaster -- India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Indonesia.

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy, International Aid
Natural Disasters
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