Fox Smears FEMA By Comparing Sandy Response To Katrina

Fox is criticizing the Obama administration's Hurricane Sandy relief efforts by comparing them to the Bush administration's response to Hurricane Katrina. In fact, there are few similarities between the responses, and the Obama administration's response to Sandy has been widely praised by members of both parties.

Fox: Hurricane Sandy Is “Obama's Katrina”

Sean Hannity: “This Is Starting To Look Like, In My Opinion, Obama's Katrina.” Discussing Hurricane Sandy, Sean Hannity asked: “So where's President Obama? Well, after his photo-op with Governor Chris Christie, and the help of your tax dollars, he boards Air Force One and he begins his day with a stump speech.” He later said: “And with the horrifying images of Sandy's devastation now contrasted with the president's constant campaigning, this is starting to look like, in my opinion, Obama's Katrina.” [Fox News, Hannity, 11/1/12]

Brian Kilmeade: Why Does Obama “Get A Pass And President Bush Got Destroyed About What Happened In Katrina?” Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade asked, “Why does he get a pass and President Bush got destroyed about what happened in Katrina?”:

KILMEADE: I think it's been horrendous in terms of what he can do, what he can't do. The results aren't there in everyday things like food, water and gas. So why does he get a pass and President Bush got destroyed about what happened in Katrina? [Fox News, Fox and Friends, 11/5/12]

Fox Guest Rudy Giuliani: “FEMA Is As Much A Failure Now As It Was At The Time Of Katrina.” On Fox News' America's Newsroom, former New York City mayor and frequent Fox guest Rudy Giuliani claimed that “FEMA is as much a failure now as it was at the time of Katrina” and disputed the credit President Obama has received for his administration's quick reaction to Hurricane Sandy. Giuliani went on to say :

GIULIANI: The president getting all this credit so early, maybe the first day or two he was paying attention, but the minute he got his credit, the minute he got his pat on the back, we have the same situation we had in Benghazi: He loses focus. He goes back to campaigner-in-chief rather than commander-in-chief. [Fox News, America's Newsroom, 11/5/12]

Fox Guest Peggy Noonan: Sandy Is A “Cold Katrina.” Wall Street Journal columnist and frequent Fox guest Peggy Noonan called Hurricane Sandy a “cold Katrina” and claimed that in time, relief efforts will show that government “didn't work so well.” Kilmeade then stated: “I know it's almost impossible to prepare for a storm like this, but it's impossible for me to understand how somebody gets high grades for their performance because they put on a jeans jacket and walk through rubble.” Noonan replied:

NOONAN: It was early on -- in the early days of the storm, it looked like government was on the case, in control. The president was there walking around New Jersey, but very quickly, this turned into a story whose headline in time may be government didn't work so well, did it?

They didn't get in the water ,they didn't get in the blankets, they ran out of gas, and as for the electrical situation, I mean, this is not a Katrina where it's warm outside. People are cold, they've lost their heat. So I think -- I think actually the full scale of this disaster will be probably be clearest after the election. [Fox News, Fox and Friends, 11/5/12]

To learn more about the right-wing media's attempt to politicize Hurricane Sandy, click here.

In Fact, FEMA Response To Sandy Cannot Be Compared With That Of Katrina

Paul Krugman: "After Katrina The Government Seemed To Have No Idea What It Was Doing; This Time It Did." New York Times columnist Paul Krugman dismissed comparisons between the current government's response to Sandy and that of Katrina during the Bush era, writing that “after Katrina the government seemed to have no idea what it was doing; this time it did”:

So, about that response: Much of the greater New York area (including my house) is still without power; gasoline is scarce; and some outlying areas are feeling neglected. Right-wing news media are portraying these continuing difficulties as a disaster comparable to, nay greater than, the aftermath of Katrina. But there's really no comparison.

I could do a point-by-point -- and it's definitely worth it, if you're curious, to revisit the 2005 Katrina timeline to get a sense of just how bad the response really was. But for me the difference is summed up in two images. One is the nightmare at the New Orleans convention center, where thousands were stranded for days amid inconceivable squalor, an outrage that all of America watched live on TV, but to which top officials seemed oblivious. The other is the scene in flooded Hoboken, with the National Guard moving in the day after the storm struck to deliver food and water and rescue stranded residents.

The point is that after Katrina the government seemed to have no idea what it was doing; this time it did. And that's no accident: the federal government's ability to respond effectively to disaster always collapses when antigovernment Republicans hold the White House, and always recovers when Democrats take it back. [The New York Times, 11/4/12]

US News & World Report: Bush “Botched The Job Of Handling Hurricane Katrina.” In an article that examined the different responses to Sandy and Katrina, US News & World Report wrote that “President Obama has done well in managing the crisis caused by Hurricane Sandy so far, while President George W. Bush botched the job of handling Hurricane Katrina in 2005”:

The contrast couldn't be much greater: two killer storms, two commanders in chief, two very different responses. President Obama has done well in managing the crisis caused by Hurricane Sandy so far, while President George W. Bush botched the job of handling Hurricane Katrina in 2005.


Obama got ahead of the curve from the start, cancelling campaign trips in order to stay in Washington to supervise the relief effort. He made sure the public knew he was in command by speaking to the nation directly as the storm intensified, and he and many surrogates have given frequent public updates about what was going on.

On Wednesday, Obama is scheduled to tour storm-damaged areas in New Jersey with Christie.

In contrast, President George W. Bush and his administration seemed slow off the mark in their response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The powerful storm hit the Gulf Coast and New Orleans while Bush was on vacation at his Texas ranch, and his aides initially didn't keep him fully informed about the devastation and misery Katrina was causing.

By the time he found out -- in a report by a senior aide -- he already looked out of touch. He belatedly cut short his vacation, and the White House released a photograph of the president looking out a window of Air Force One at the devastation below, which only made Bush appear more distant from the calamity.

Later, Bush did visit a disaster-relief site and praised Michael Brown, his FEMA director, with the memorable sentence, “Brownie, you're doing a heckuva job.” The people of New Orleans, who had been waiting desperately for aid, had a different, and far more negative view. Brown resigned shortly thereafter. [US News & World Report, 10/31/12]

IG Report Revealed That Katrina Response “Warranted” Criticism For Being “Slow And Ineffective”

IG Report On Katrina Response: Much Of The Criticism For Slow And Ineffective Response To Katrina “Is Warranted.” A 2006 report by the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General on the federal government's response to Katrina concluded that much of the criticism the government received for Katrina was warranted, writing:

The federal government, in particular the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), received widespread criticism for a slow and ineffective response to Hurricane Katrina. Much of the criticism is warranted.


When compared to other disasters, FEMA provided record levels of support to Hurricane Katrina victims, states, and emergency responders. However, a lack of visibility in the resource ordering process, difficulty deploying sufficient numbers of trained personnel, unreliable communication systems, and insufficient management controls for some assistance programs demonstrate a need for improved response support capabilities and more effective delivery mechanisms for assistance.

FEMA's efforts to support state emergency management and to prepare for federal response and recovery in natural disasters were insufficient for an event of Hurricane Katrina's magnitude.  Difficulties experienced during the response directly correlate with weaknesses in FEMA's grant programs, staffing, training, catastrophic planning, and remediation of issues identified during previous disasters and exercises. [Department of Homeland Security, 3/31/06]

Salon: Following Katrina, Federal Officials Provided “Precious Little Aid To Those In Need.” A September 2005 Salon article headlined “Why FEMA failed” noted that although various organizations attempted to help with Hurricane Katrina relief efforts, federal officials “provid[ed] precious little aid to those in need” and the White House “decided its best strategy is to keep its distance from people on the ground”:

[V]arious local and state governments, corporations and nonprofit organizations across the nation attempted to help in the relief effort, only to be snubbed by federal officials -- officials who were themselves providing precious little aid to those in need. Citing security concerns, the Department of Homeland Security barred the American Red Cross from entering New Orleans with food. Five hundred Floridian airboaters were ready to rescue people stranded in inundated homes, but FEMA turned them down. Twenty sheriff's deputies from Loudoun County, Va., suffered a similar fate. And Aaron Broussard, the president of Jefferson Parish, La., said on “Meet the Press” on Sunday that FEMA declined to let him accept three tanker trucks of water donated by Wal-Mart, as well as 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel stored in a Coast Guard vessel docked in his district.


According to [George] Haddow [who served as the deputy chief of staff at FEMA under James Lee Witt, Bill Clinton's FEMA director], instead of working with local officials to try to minimize the impacts of an impending storm, the White House has decided its best strategy is to keep its distance from people on the ground. That way if anything goes wrong, the White House can “attack, attack, attack.” [Salon, 9/7/05]

Sandy Response Has Been Widely Praised By Officials From Both Parties

CNN: FEMA “Is Winning Praise For How It's Dealing With Superstorm Sandy.” CNN reported that FEMA “is winning praise for how it's dealing with Superstorm Sandy,” and that officials from both parties have praised FEMA's response:

Seven years after a disastrous response to Hurricane Katrina, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is winning praise for how it's dealing with Superstorm Sandy.

“This is the all-new FEMA, and the leadership is very, very good, very focused,” said Dr. Irwin Redlener, a pediatrician and director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. “They're doing an excellent job.”

Score one for FEMA's attempts to come back from its infamous failure after Katrina struck the Gulf Coast in August 2005.


Even in the highly charged political environment days before the U.S. elections, FEMA has won plaudits from governors of both parties.

New Jersey's Chris Christie -- a Republican whose state bore the brunt of the storm -- told CBS News on Tuesday that “cooperation has been great with FEMA here on the ground,” while Delaware's Jack Markell -- a Democrat -- told CNN that people in his state have been “really, really impressed by the response of FEMA.” [CNN, 11/2/12]

WNYC: Officials “Praised FEMA For Being Prepared Before The Storm And Responsive Immediately Afterwards.” New York Public Radio reported that FEMA “has received good grades from politicians and even some survivors of the storm” and that officials “praised FEMA for being prepared before the storm and responsive immediately afterward -- which did not happen when Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast in 2005”:

Following Superstorm Sandy, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has received good grades from politicians and even some survivors of the storm. In part, that's due to lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina seven years ago.

For Staten Island resident Deb Smith, whose house was flooded by the storm surge from Sandy, FEMA has been a savior.

“What a hell of an organization. I got on the phone with them yesterday, I got my claim number in already, the guy said he's going to call me in a couple of days,” she says. “He's going to come out and estimate, and they said, listen, whatever doesn't work, they're going to help us put stuff in storage.”

The reviews are almost as glowing from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and other local officials in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast. They've praised FEMA for being prepared before the storm and responsive immediately afterward -- which did not happen when Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast in 2005. [WNYC, 11/3/12]

NY Times: “While FEMA Is Still Viewed With Caution,” The Agency's Head “Has Done Much To Shore Up Its Image.” The New York Times reported that "[w]hile FEMA is still viewed with caution," the current head of the agency, W. Craig Fugate, “has done much to shore up its image”:

After the agency's poor handling of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, FEMA was the Homer Simpson of federal agencies, a symbol of pitiful incompetence. The storm even created a national punch line after President George W. Bush said at a news conference that his FEMA director, Michael D. Brown, was doing a 'heck of a job' even as the agency was bungling its response.

While FEMA is still viewed with caution -- and in some places in New York City in the last week, with continued scorn -- Mr. Fugate has done much to shore up its image. That is in part simply through self-flagellation, as he races around storm-savaged regions, ticks off statistics about water levels and procures baby formula for a mother in need. 

Mr. Fugate -- or Mr. Emergency Management, as President Obama referred to him last week -- is a straightforward, honey-toned former director of Florida emergency operations who judges the post-storm condition of communities by the viability of their local economic activity. His hyper-focus on local preparation long before disasters hit has been the key to his success, according to several people who have worked with him. [The New York Times, 11/3/12]

Huff. Post: Romney Adviser Ed Gillespie: “The Obama Administration Is Effectively Responding To Hurricane Sandy.” A Huffington Post article reported that “despite a torrent of criticisms from conservatives over the effort,” Ed Gillespie, a senior adviser to Mitt Romney's campaign, “admitted on Sunday that the Obama administration is effectively responding to Hurricane Sandy”:

Ed Gillespie, a senior adviser to Mitt Romney's campaign, admitted on Sunday that the Obama administration is effectively responding to Hurricane Sandy, despite a torrent of criticisms from conservatives over the effort and Romney's own desire to change the way the Federal Emergency Management Agency operates.


[I]n an interview on ABC's 'This Week' on Sunday, when host George Stephanopoulos asked whether Romney had “any quarrel with the way President Obama has handled the hurricane,” Gillespie said he did not 'Well, from what we've heard from the governors, they're working well with FEMA,' he said. 'There's a good working relationship between the state and the federal government.' [Huffington Post, 11/4/12]

Wash. Post: “In Superstorm Sandy, Gov. Chris Christie Praises Obama's Crisis Leadership.” In an article headlined “In superstorm Sandy, Gov. Chris Christie praises Obama's crisis leadership,” the Washington Post wrote that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, “heaped praise on Obama's initial reaction to the storm”:

But no photo opp in the world can top the praise of a job well done that comes from an affected, outspoken governor from the other party. In comments that perfectly encapsulated not only the severity of the storm but the divisiveness of our national politics and the bluntness of the speaker, New Jersey governor Chris Christie -- primetime GOP convention speaker and frequent campaign surrogate for Mitt Romney -- heaped praise on Obama's initial reaction to the storm.

Christie told news outlets that the president's response had been “outstanding,” said that coordinating with the administration had been “wonderful,” and remarked that “the president has been all over this and he deserves great credit.” He even told Fox News the president had done a “great job for New Jersey” while staying above the fray about politics: “I've got a job to do here in New Jersey that's much bigger than presidential politics, and I could care less about any of that stuff. I have a job to do. I've got 2.4 million people out of power. I've got devastation on the Shore. I've got floods in the northern part of my state. If you think right now I give a damn about presidential politics, then you don't know me.” [The Washington Post, 10/30/12]

To learn more about the government's response to Sandy, click here