Monday, September 19, 2005

Fat Lying Pantload

Bumped: Another Katrina Myth: Aaron Broussard's "Emotional" Appearance on MTP (Updated: MSNBC/NBC Correction(?))

In yesterday's Chicago Sun-Times [9/12/05], Richard Roeper called Jefferson Parish, LA president Aaron Broussard's tearful outburst, shown September 4th on Meet the Press, "One of the defining media moments of all the hurricane [Katrina] coverage":


"The guy who runs this building I'm in, emergency management, he's responsible for everything. His mother was trapped in a St. Bernard nursing home and every day she called him and said, 'Are you coming, son? Is somebody coming?' And he said, 'Yeah, Mama, somebody's coming to get you. Somebody's coming to get you on Tuesday. Somebody's coming to get you on Wednesday. Somebody's coming to get you on Thursday. Somebody's coming to get you on Friday.' And she drowned Friday night. She drowned Friday night.""

Like a lot of people, I didn't think Broussard's story passed the "smell test". We were right: He was lying.

MSNBC's Dateline web site, September 5th:

On Sunday, America met 56-year-old Jefferson Parish president Aaron Broussard in an extraordinary display of raw emotion on NBC’s “Meet the Press” when he talked about a colleague whose mother was trapped in a nursing home awaiting rescue.

The man he was talking about is Thomas Rodrigue, who told “Dateline” that his 92-year-old mother was one of 32 elderly people found dead at the St. Rita’s nursing home.

September 7th, New York Times reported on the deaths at St. Rita's:

St. Bernard Parish officials say that 32 of the home's roughly 60 residents died on Aug. 29, more than a week ago.

August 29th was a Monday. Was Broussard confused about the day on which Rodrigue's mother died?

Susan Candiottoti, reporting on the September 8th broadcast of Newsnight With Aaron Brown:

CANDIOTTI: Sunday night [ed: August 28th], as Katrina struck, Rodrigue was 30 miles away directing emergency personnel for Jefferson Parish. He called the nursing home in St. Bernard Parish again, pleading with officials to get the residents out. He was told they were going to try.

RODRIGUE: I called the St. Bernard officials again and, you know, told them that, you know, they've got to get, you know, these people out. And they said they notified them, and that they weren't -- they refused to leave. And I said, "Well, you need to send the sheriff's office down there and make them leave." And he said, "I'm doing everything I can."

So, Thomas Rodrigue says he was calling the St. Rita's nursing home, and St. Bernard Parish officials on Sunday, August 28th, asking them to send the local sheriff to evacuate the nursing home. Katrina hit St. Bernard Parish on Monday, August 29th, killing his mother.

Broussard claims Rodrigue was talking to his mother for four days after she died, promising her some nebulous "cavalry" was on the way. His story doesn't jibe with the reporting of CNN, MSNBC, the New York Times, or even Thomas Rodrigue's own account.

Why would he lie about such a thing?

Aaron Broussard's crocodile tears came at the tail-end of a tirade against FEMA, in response to a question from Tim Russert asking whether the mayor of New Orleans and the governor of Loisiana could have been "more forceful, much more effective and much more organized in evacuating the area." Just before his "breakdown," Broussard said:

"Sir, they were told like me, every single day, "The cavalry's coming," on a federal level, "The cavalry's coming, the cavalry's coming, the cavalry's coming.""

Who is the "they" he's referring to? It's worth noting that, according to the State of Loisiana's Emergency Preparedned Plan (PDF warning)local officials are responsible for evacuating residents of the various parishes before and during the early stages of the aftermath of a hurricane.

Was Broussard (a Democrat) trying to score political points (and possibly deflect blame away from local government officials) by blaming federal agencies for failing to respond in a timely manner when people's lives were in danger?

If that was his intention, it worked (at least at first). Russert didn't challenge him, even when he made wild accusations of FEMA "cutting [his parish's] emergency [communication] lines" and ordering the Coast Guard not to give them badly needed fuel. Since any blame for this should be placed on Lousiana state and/or local government officials, any OUTRAGE or RIGHTEOUS indignation should be directed toward them. But don't hold your breath waiting for Tim Russert to issue a correction.

To their credit, even issued a correction after initially reporting on Broussard's accusations:

So, assuming the MSNBC story is accurate, Broussard’s story was at least significantly embellished... Broussard, for all the apparent sincerity in his emotional on-air breakdown, was willing to lie in order to make his story work better as political theater, which in turn makes it harder for me to credit the rest of the slow-FEMA-response anecdotes he described.

I won't be as kind. At best, I think Aaron Broussard is the political equivalent of a price gouger; taking advantage of a tragedy in order to gain political capital. He may very well be purposely trying to blame someone's death on an innocent party (or parties). Either way, it's despicable.

See also: Heh.