Accuracy in Media

While some commentators took former President Jimmy Carter to task for his misleading and political comments at the Coretta Scott King funeral about wiretapping, his ridiculous claims about the victims of Hurricane Katrina went largely unchallenged.

First, there was the wiretapping controversy. During his tribute to Coretta Scott King, at her funeral service on February 7, Carter said, “The evidence of Martin and Coretta have changed America. They were not appreciated even at the highest level of government. It was difficult for them personally with the civil liberties of both husband and wife violated as they became the targets of secret government wiretappings, other surveillance, and as you know, harassment from the FBI.”

Clearly, Carter was trying to slam Bush for his NSA surveillance program, which has been prominently in the news, by suggesting without saying so directly that it is somehow comparable to wiretapping King. What he didn’t mention?but clearly knows?is that the people behind the wiretapping of King were President John F. Kennedy, his brother, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, President Lyndon Johnson and his aide Bill Moyers, all icons of the Democratic Party, plus FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. The report, one of the Senate’s Church Committee reports from the 1970’s, still makes interesting reading to see how the Kennedy and Johnson administrations viewed Dr. King and why they had him under surveillance.

In regard to the NSA program, virtually all leading Democratic Senators say that they support the eavesdropping on the al-Qaeda calls, but just differ with President Bush on the legal steps he must take before engaging in such practice. Many Bush opponents have said that he broke the law, suggesting the remedy is impeachment. In fairness, they should be asked by the media for their views on the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations having wiretapped the Kings. 

Jimmy Carter also got a free media pass on Katrina, the consequences of which have been mostly blamed by the national media on the Bush Administration, not local and state authorities. Carter said that the contributions of Martin Luther King and Coretta Scott King remind us “that the struggle for equal rights is not over. We only have to recall the color of the faces of those in Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi. Those who were most devastated by Katrina know that there are not yet equal opportunities for all Americans.”

With this statement, Carter was suggesting that people were destroyed or left behind by the hurricane because the federal government was racist. Those comments were directed at President Bush, sitting just behind Carter as he spoke.

While clearly there is blame to go around, as the recent Congressional report and hearings revealed, what Carter said was false. According to a Knight Ridder story from December 30, which analyzed the data, “the victims weren’t disproportionately poor…” and “also weren’t disproportionately African-American.” They determined that the only group disproportionately affected was “older adults.” The Knight Ridder database found that 74% of the dead were 60 or older, while nearly half were over 75, many of those who resided at nursing homes.

Regarding race, the study found that in Orleans Parish, 62% of known Katrina victims were African-American, compared with 66% of the total population. And in St. Bernard Parish, 92% of the victims were white, compared to 88% of the total population identified as white.

Jimmy Carter, who has written a book about our “endangered values” and America’s “moral crisis,” is a national embarrassment. When he opens his mouth, it’s the truth that is endangered. His phony moral posturing should be exposed, not praised, by our media.

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