On the September 13 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, Rush Limbaugh repeated his dubious assertion that during an August 28 phone call to Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, President Bush “was begging that governor ... to declare an emergency.” Media Matters for America has debunked similar claims by Limbaugh and other conservatives (here, here, and here).
As he did on the September 6 broadcast of his program, Limbaugh conflated two separate decisions made by Louisiana officials: the decision to declare a state of emergency and the decision to evacuate New Orleans. In fact, Blanco declared a state of emergency on August 26, which was two days before Mayor C. Ray Nagin announced the mandatory evacuation of New Orleans and two days before the August 28 phone call to which Limbaugh referred. Moreover, it was Blanco who asked Bush to declare a federal state of emergency in Louisiana on August 27 -- not the other way around, as Limbaugh claimed.
According to Blanco's description of her August 28 phone conversation with Bush, the president did encourage her to ensure that New Orleans was evacuated. But Blanco's description of the conversation and a similar account given by White House press secretary Scott McClellan make it clear that the phone conversation took place just minutes before the press conference at which Nagin announced the mandatory evacuation, making it doubtful that Bush's phone call was a key factor in the decision to evacuate the city, as Limbaugh and other conservatives have previously suggested.
From the September 13 broadcast of The Rush Limbaugh Show:
LIMBAUGH: It is flat-out absurd. Bush was begging that governor [Blanco] on the Sunday before the hurricane hit to get people out of there and to declare an emergency. Bush was on the phone with her -- they were thinking about sending the military in because the state and local people weren't acting fast enough.