Accuracy in Media

Demonstrating that the post-Katrina Bush-bashing has had limited effect, a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll found “no apparent outrage with [the] government’s response” to the hurricane. Here’s what the poll said: “Despite widespread criticism of the response by Bush and, separately, the federal government, to the problems caused by the hurricane, the public seems on balance only mildly critical. Forty-two percent say Bush did a ‘bad’ (18%) or ‘terrible’ (24%) job, but 35% rate his response as either ‘great’ (10%) or ‘good’ (25%).”

Of course, that “widespread criticism” came mostly from the media, Democrats, and some Republicans made agitated and upset by the 24/7 cable news coverage of the hurricane victims. The heart-wrenching coverage also prompted some attacks on the federal relief effort by conservative newspapers such as the Washington Times and the Union-Leader of New Hampshire. They panicked, as it appeared on TV at least that nothing was being done. 

When asked to identify who was most responsible for the problems in New Orleans after the hurricane, 38% of Americans said no one was really to blame, while 13% cited Bush, 18% the federal agencies, and 25% state and local officials.

And get this: asked if any of the top officials in the federal agencies responsible for handling emergencies should be fired, only 29 percent said yes and 63 percent said no.

We found a reference to the poll, co-sponsored by USA Today, buried in a story headlined, “FEMA director faces his own storm of controversy,” by Jill Lawrence. She called the 29 percent in favor of firing federal officials “not-so-bad news for Brown.” The whole thrust of the story was that FEMA director Michael Brown was under strong criticism and might have to go.

The story quoted Havid?n Rodr?guez, director of the Disaster Research Center at the University of Delaware, as saying that FEMA “lost autonomy, money, focus and direct access to the president” when it was folded into the Department of Homeland Security in 2003.

Lawrence also reported that Senator Hillary Clinton introduced a bill that would separate FEMA from Homeland Security. She didn’t mention that Bush had initially opposed the bill establishing that department and that Senator Clinton voted for it.

The poll results show that most people do not blame the government for a natural disaster. Despite the show-boating and grandstanding by reporters such as Tim Russert, Shepard Smith, Geraldo Rivera, Jack Cafferty, and Anderson Cooper, the people saw through the media coverage.

If anyone is to blame, the proposed federal investigation ought to look at why New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin didn’t evacuate his city and why he permitted criminal gangs to interfere with the relief effort.

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