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Grapevine Whine - Still Playing the Katrina Blame Game

Reported by Nancy - December 7, 2005 -

Monday night (12/5) on Special Report, Brit Hume used "picking" #2 on the Grapevine to continue the Blame Game over the government's response to Hurricane Katrina. The hook for the iem was the more than 100,000 pages of documents released by Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco. Out of all that mountain of paper, Hume selected precisely one item, then tried to smear Blanco & her staff as incompetent nincompoops, while portraing Bush as being magnanimously above the fray. And, despite his penchant for nit-picking alleged misquotes that really aren't, Hume himself seems to have stumbled here, attribbuting to Sen Harry Reid (D-NV) a statement made by one of Reid's aides.

Here's how Hume summed up those 100,000+ pages of documents for his viewers: Blanco

apparently refused to allow the state National Guard to be placed under federal control in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina because she & her staff didn't understand the state's role in commanding the troops. More than 100,000 pages of documents released by the Democratic [emphasis mine] governor show that her team was not familiar with National Guard procedures & one aide tells The Washington Post that staffers didn't even know what the term 'unified command' meant.

Not content with cherrypicking one example out of hundreds in an effort to smear Blanco, Hume then tried to paint Bush as loftily above such partisan fray:

Though [Bush] refused to criticize Blanco at the time, the documents show that Blanco's team believed the administration was trying to scapegoat them.

But wait! There's more finger-pointing to go around! According to Hume.

The papers also show that Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid got involved, telling Blanco's staff that Democrats were "mobilizing big-time to push back on criticism of the state."

Comments: Nice try, but no cigar. The documents were released Friday (12/2) & it took Hume & Fox 3 solid days to come up with this brilliant rejoinder? Pathetic. And hardly "fair" or "balanced" since Hume neglected to mention a single instance (out of hundreds) of federal incompetence revealed in those same documents.

Let's see how some other news media covered this:

Needless to say, some local Louisiana news outlets were overtly partisan in their reporting: Documents Show State Officials Pleading with Feds During Hurricane

National news orgs like CNN were significantly more objective: Blanco papers recount Katrina response. Since Hume failed to include a single example of federal bungling, allow me to excerpt from that article:

Five days after one request from the governor for federal help, a presidential aide told Blanco in a memo that Bush never got her letter. The aide told Blanco, "We found it on the governor's Web site, but we need 'an original' for our staff secretary to formally process the requests."

Finally, since Hume chose to cite the Washington Post, let's look at several articles Fox's competitor published on this topic. For example, in a short piece entitled FEMA Official: Katrina Response 'Broken' readers would discover yet another key piece of information also not mentioned by Hume -- that there are documents relating to Mississippi as well.

The Louisiana documents released Friday revealed delays and state claims that requests for federal help weren't received, and reflected partisan battling between the Republican Bush administration and Blanco, a Democrat.
The Mississippi documents, though only a handful were released, showed no political tensions between local officials and Washington. But FEMA officials in the state were among the first to admit that needs weren't being met.
Of course, if Hume had mentioned that the MS documents show no tension between the GOP government of that state & the GOPs in DC, his viewers might have wondered whether the Bush administration responded differently to states with GOPs in charge than it did to states with Dems in charge.

There's a major Washington Post article entitled Documents Highlight Bush-Blanco Standoff. The opening paragraphs show how desperately revisionist Hume's version of events was:

Shortly after noon on Aug. 31, Louisiana Sen. David Vitter (R) delivered a message that stunned aides to Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D), who were frantically managing the catastrophe that began two days earlier when Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast.

White House senior adviser Karl Rove wanted it conveyed that he understood that Blanco was requesting that President Bush federalize the evacuation of New Orleans. The governor should explore legal options to impose martial law "or as close as we can get," Vitter quoted Rove as saying, according to handwritten notes by Terry Ryder, Blanco's executive counsel.

Thus began what one aide called a "full-court press" to compel the first-term governor to yield control of her state National Guard -- a legal, political and personal campaign by White House staff that failed three days later when Blanco rejected the administration's terms, 10 minutes before Bush was to announce them in a Rose Garden news conference, the governor's aides said.

But wait! There's more! According the Hume, Sen Harry Reid (D-NV) "got involved, telling Blanco's staff that Democrats were 'mobilizing big-time to push back on criticism of the state.' "

Hmm. Here's how the same article reported that:

At about the same time, Blanco communications director Bob Mann spoke to an aide to Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.), who said Democrats were eagerly "mobilizing big-time to push back on criticism of the state."

Tsk, tsk, Mr Hume. Are you (gasp!) MISQUOTING someone?

The article is long, but worth reading for a summary of those 100,000 pages of documents. For those with the stamine to pore through all thpse pages, Blanco has posted the documents on her website

If you'd like to complain to Fox about this, email: special@foxnews.com

NOTE TO READERS: Please stay on topic (Hume's spinning of the contents of the documents Blanco released). O/T comments will be deleted. Thanks.