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Grapevine Whine: Katrina Video 'Error'

Reported by Judy - March 7, 2006

Brit Hume works for a network that rarely acknowledges its own errors, yet relishes pointing out the mistakes of other news organizations -- even when they are not mistakes at all. The latest example of this came on Monday (March 6, 2006) on "Special Report with Brit Hume."

Hume was in a mini-snit last week when The Associated Press obtained and released video of federal briefings regarding Hurricane Katrina, labeling the video confidential. Hume sneered that the briefing was not confidential because Fox News was even there for part of it.

But the big news of the video was George Bush being told that the levees in New Orleans might be "overtopped" by storm waters. The AP juxtaposed that warning with video of Bush's post-Katrina remark that no one could anticipate the levees being breached.

On Monday, Hume said The AP was backing off claims that it caught Bush in a "lie." Despite Hume's statement, The AP never said that it caught Bush in a lie, never used the word "lie." Bloggers and Democratic-leaning groups added that interpretation. But those are details to Hume.

What The AP did on March 2 was issue a "clarification" (as opposed to a correction) noting that the National Hurricane Center distinguishes between "breaching" (making a hole in the levee) and "overtopping" (water running over the top.) As Harold Shearer has noted on The Huffington Post, the storm did both to levees in New Orleans.

Furthermore, my desk copy of Webster's New World Dictionary defines a "breach" as "a breaking of waves over or upon a ship, sea wall, etc." So even though the National Hurricane Center uses breaching to mean making a hole in the levee, that is not the common meaning of the word. And who knows what George, son of George "born with a silver foot in his mouth," meant when he used the term "breach."

Hume continued to grouse that The AP did not back off its description of the video as confidential. Not the briefing itself, but the video of it. There was no reason for The AP to back off that. The video was confidential. If the media had been allowed to tape the briefing at the time it occurred, the video would not have been confidential, but it was not allowed to tape it. That's part of what makes it a briefing.

Hume can fume all he wants about The AP "error" that wasn't and can demand a correction that is not needed. It does not change the fact that George Bush was told water probably would pour into the city of New Orleans. Hume's hissy-fit over how the water got into the city shows his main concern is carrying Bush's water.

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