On Good Morning America, Laura Bush dismissed Bush Katrina critics; Roberts did not challenge


Interviewing Laura Bush on ABC's Good Morning America, Robin Roberts allowed Laura Bush to dismiss a New York Times article documenting the widespread view that President Bush's handling of Hurricane Katrina has adversely affected his image.

Interviewing first lady Laura Bush during the August 29 edition of ABC's Good Morning America, co-host Robin Roberts allowed Laura Bush to dismiss an August 28 New York Times article documenting the widespread view that President Bush's handling of Hurricane Katrina has adversely affected his image. Roberts asked Laura Bush to respond to the Times' report, saying that despite the Bushes' frequent trips to the Gulf Coast region and the billions of dollars allocated by the federal government to rebuild the region, "there is still criticism." Roberts then asked, "In The New York Times on Monday, [there was] a very critical article saying that this is going to be a 'mark' on the Bush administration for a very long time, and '[i]t will be in every textbook.' How do you respond to that?" Laura Bush replied, "[T]hat's not right, of course, and I think we should consider the source" -- to which Roberts did not note that the original "source" for the "mark" comment was not the Times, but James A. Thurber, the director of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies at American University, who was quoted in the article as saying: "This is a real black mark on his [Bush's] administration, and it's going to stay with him for a long time. ... It will be in every textbook.''

Nor did Roberts point out that other "source[s]" in the Times article included Republican Sen. Susan Collins (ME), who said that the image of President Bush "on Air Force One looking down at the destruction and devastation below" will be "hard to erase," or presidential counselor Dan Bartlett, who was quoted saying that residents of New Orleans "are skeptical about our commitment."

Nor did Roberts note that other Republicans and conservatives have made similar observations about the impact of President Bush's response to Katrina. As Media Matters for America previously noted, according to The Washington Post, Rep. Patrick T. McHenry (R-NC) said that Katrina "undermined" President Bush's reputation as an able leader; and Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) described the crisis as "a break in the levee of political goodwill and the Teflon coating that the administration had been enjoying up to then." U.S. Senate candidate and Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele (R) called the government's response "a monumental failure," and even House Republicans reserved some criticism for President Bush's handling of Katrina in their "Final Report of the Select Bipartisan Committee to Investigate the Preparation for and Response to Hurricane Katrina." As Philadelphia Inquirer political analyst Dick Polman noted on August 28, "[i]n February, a 600-page report by House Republicans upbraided [President] Bush for 'a failure of leadership.' "

On the August 28 edition of MSNBC's Tucker, host Tucker Carlson used language similar to Thurber's, contrasting President Bush's popularity post-Katrina with that of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani:

CARLSON: Hurricane Katrina was such a black mark on the Bush administration that the president's approval ratings still have not recovered a year later.

Meanwhile, the disaster that was 9-11 elevated Rudy Giuliani to hero status and made him a rock star in the Republican Party.

Media figures and outlets have previously left Laura Bush's false or misleading claims unchallenged. As Media Matters has previously noted, on May 14, several media outlets left unrebutted Laura Bush's false claim that, when President Bush's approval ratings were "really high," or "when [his] poll numbers were good," "they weren't on the front page" of major newspapers. In fact, as The American Prospect's Greg Sargent noted on the Prospect's Tapped weblog at the time, The New York Times and The Washington Post published at least nine front-page articles touting President Bush's formerly high approval ratings and his lead in polls taken during the 2004 presidential campaign.

From the August 29 edition of ABC's Good Morning America:

ROBERTS: You've been here more than a dozen times over the year, your husband as well -- $110 billion the federal government has allocated for hurricane relief. Yet, there is still criticism. In The New York Times on Monday, a very critical article saying that this is going to be a "mark" on the Bush administration for a very long time, and "[i]t will be in every textbook." How do you respond to that?

BUSH: Well, I think that's not right, of course, and I think we should consider the source. But, with all due respect, there is a lot of money appropriated by the United States Congress that's coming here, that has been coming here, and different communities have used it in different ways. Some communities, obviously, are using the money to start rebuilding schools.

There is money for everything, but it takes more than just money. It really takes the efforts of everyone who lived here, who wants to come back, who's working there, of all officials, public officials, local, state, and federal, of other neighbors, other people who can figure out a way to help. Was the federal government slow? Sure, probably. Was every government slow, state and local? Absolutely. But, have they responded in a very, very helpful way? I think they have.

ROBERTS: You think history will be kinder, looking back?

BUSH: Well, I mean, I think we'll look back on it and we'll see it for what it was, the largest disaster that our country's ever faced, and a huge disaster. Could we have done better? Sure. But, are we doing what we can now? Absolutely.

ROBERTS: I know you, all along, said you're not a campaigner. But, listening to you, and I know that there have been some Republican strategists that had said, "We'd like the first lady to come out and campaign for our candidates," maybe more so than the president because his approval rating is low right now. Any thoughts to doing that?

BUSH: Well, I am campaigning, of course. I'm campaigning for Republican candidates for the midterm election that's coming up. But, the fact is, this is not political -- that what all of us do here is not partisan and not political. And it's something for everyone to do, whatever their party or whether they're interested in politics or not. And that is to help as people rebuild here on the Gulf Coast.

Posted In
Environment & Science, Government
Robin Roberts
Good Morning America
Hurricane Katrina, Natural Disasters
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