USA Today cited Power Line's Hinderaker criticizing media for spreading rumors about New Orleans post-Katrina, but his blog did it too


An October 11 USA Today article by Mark Memmott examining misinformation that was widely reported during the initial recovery efforts after Hurricane Katrina quoted John Hinderaker, a contributor to the right-wing weblog Power Line, criticizing the media for repeating stories that had no basis in fact. "What was shocking was that news organizations would just pick it up and keep repeating it when there'd really been no basis for it," Hinderaker told the newspaper, referring to claims by New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin that 10,000 residents might have died in the catastrophe. But, in fact, a Media Matters for America review of Power Line postings during the same period uncovered several examples of the blog promoting sensational stories about conditions following the hurricane.

Hinderaker was the only person Memmott cited, on the left or the right, who commented specifically on the media's post-Katrina coverage.

On September 2, Hinderaker posted an account of the aftermath of the hurricane by reader John LaCour that included claims of "mounds of dead bodies lining the streets":

"Once the flooding was complete there was no way for the people left in the city to escape. Furthermore, it was the Mayor's and the Governor's fault for not mobilizing the Louisiana National Guard as early as Tuesday when it became apparent that the city was going to totally flood, and it was their fault that they also did not give orders to shoot-to-kill any looter stealing more than food, water, or shoes. In Mississippi the Governor almost immediately gave shoot-to-kill orders for looters. How many looting stories have made the news from Mississippi?

A very close friend's sister lived in New Orleans, stayed at her home through the hurricane and only made it out yesterday...On their second try [leaving the city] they met up with two New Orleans police officers who at gun-point ordered them to return home telling them they 'would not' help them. On Thursday, when they left, their SUV was mobbed by a huge crowd that tried to pull them out of their car and take it. Brandishing their guns they were able to escape. Along their route out of town they witnessed murders and mounds of bodies lining the streets. Had they not left I doubt they would have survived."

In another instance, a September 5 Power Line post linked to another blog in which a purported first-person account of the post-Katrina disaster claimed to describe the scope of destruction and crime issues:

"Further, people need to understand the scope of the problem. New Orleans is a large city with limited access under the best of circumstances. Everything to the east of New Orleans was completely destroyed and impassable. The remaining thoroughfares to the north, north-west and west were inaccessible to the worst areas of flooding. There is no egress to the south. On top of that, there was a well armed gang and drug addict population determined to take full advantage of the situation by preventing the police from restoring order."

Power Line also repeated sensational claims that were being spread in the media. For instance, on September 6, the site cited a column by Washington Times editor in chief Wesley Pruden that claimed:

Ray Nagin, the mayor, ordered a 'mandatory' evacuation a day late, but kept the city's 2,000 school buses parked and locked in neat rows when there was still time to take the refugees to higher ground. The bright-yellow buses sit ruined now in four feet of dirty water. Then the governor, Kathleen Blanco, resisted early pleas to declare martial law, and her dithering opened the way for looters, rapists and killers to make New Orleans an unholy hell. Gov. Haley Barbour did not hesitate in neighboring Mississippi, and looters, rapists and killers have not turned the streets of Gulfport and Biloxi into killing fields.

As Media Matters for America has noted, the Orleans Parish School District in fact owned 324 buses, not the 2,000 that Pruden claimed.

Posted In
Environment & Science
Hurricane Katrina, Natural Disasters
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