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FOX Biz Show Whine: Katrina Victims Got It, So Where's the Foreign Aid for Florida?

Reported by Marie Therese - February 5, 2007 -

I was in total shock as I watched the tape of Saturday morning's Bulls & Bears. In their first segment, two of their oft-touted business experts - Gary B. Smith and Tobin Smith - showed their willingness to deliberately distort recent history in order to adhere to a favorite conservative talking point, i.e. that foreign countries are not as generous an the United States when it comes to donating after natural disasters. Both men whined that no other nations had come forward to offer assistance to the people devastated by tornadoes in Florida.

Prior to the start of Bulls & Bears, FOX & Friends Weekend aired a massive amount of coverage of the Florida disaster, anchored largely by Brian Kilmeade who was in Florida to cover the Super Bowl. While the middle-class town of Paisley suffered the largest loss of life (13 out of 734 residents), a major FOX News advertiser, The Villages, suffered the worst property damage. Some 500 homes were destroyed as well as an historic church in Lady Lake, a nearby town. The tornadoes smashed across 40 miles and cut through four counties, leaving many homeless and living in shelters.

BRENDA BUTTNER, host: "Deadly tornadoes and storms hitting Florida hard. Massive damage and destruction. Now, no surprise. Americans are already mobilizing to help the victims and when disaster strikes other nations, America is expected to help there as well. So why in tragedies such as these do we rarely hear about other countries sending us aid unless it's on, let's say, Katrina-like proporations?"

GARY B. SMITH, Exemplar Capital: "You know, Brenda, it's a great question and I don't - I don't know the answer. I guess people think the U. S. just doesn't need the aid and, and you know what, that may well be true but I give the - here's a good example. If you went outside and you saw your neighbor's house on fire, you'd go out there and offer assistance. It wouldn't matter if he was ten times richer than you or poorer or whatever. It's just - it's the neighborly thing to do and I think maybe other countries forget that and that's one of the things that I'm most proud about the U. S. My gosh, we'd go help, I think, if there was a natural disaster in north Korea, we would send aid."

N. B. According to the Congressional Research Service Report of 2003, "Since 1995, the U.S. has provided over $1 billion in foreign assistance to the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea (DPRK, also known as North Korea), about 60% of which has taken the form of food aid, and about 40% in the form of energy assistance channeled through the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO)." For a business expert, Gary B. doesn't seem to know his history.

BUTTNER: "So, Toby, it may not be actually the money we need but just the gesture?"

TOBIN SMITH, ChangeWave Research: "Yeah, I think, you know, obviously I sort of use the analogy that if there was a hurricane in Beverly Hills, you know, people wouldn't be rushin' to help Beverly Hills. They'd assume that these guys had insurance, they didn't need the money. The gesture is the issue and I think that the issue is really gonna be, you know, with us, is that we're the big guy on the block. People don't expect us, you know, because that goes with the territory of being the big guy. Sixty trillion in net worth for our country. Maybe a hundred trillion total in the world? We're richer than every other country combined and unfortunately, perhaps, that goes with the territory. I would say we do it out of a humanitarian sense and I think other countries do things on a humanitarian - we're not lookin' for a thank you."

Buttner went on to say: "You only have to look at the pictures to see the destruction and kind of the human level, the human toll here. Even if we don't need the aid, wouldn't you think people would come to our help?"

Scott Bleier of Hybrid Investors pointed out that "nobody can get the job done like we can." However, he capitulated to Buttner's insistent talking point by saying "I think the offer, the offer would be very welcome and, to boot, it would be a nice political entree for some of our not-so-friendly neighbors to come back in and come into the fold."

Remember, folks, this is the lead segment in a BUSINESS show!

Later on in the discussion the only voice of reason was that of Pat Dorsey of Morningstar.com, a generally calm individual who told Buttner in no uncertain terms that he didn't think "the U. S. is sending aid every time there's a tornado in another country. When there's large disasters, we are very generous in sending aid because we do have the resources to afford it."

Bob Olstein of The Olstein Fund expressed his total disdain for foreign countries: "Well, I think the good news is that we really don't need it. And I think it's - you know, we want these people to prove that they love us when in fact they don't. That's the facts [sic] of the matter. We have to deal with what we have to deal with. We have to worry about the poor victims of this tornado and the fact of the matter is I could care less whether they help us or not."

Like a boomerang, Buttner returned to the assigned talking point for this segment: "They don't like us. Is the hatred of America having some impact on this?"

It remained for the only sane one in the whole bunch - Pat Dorsey - to tell her the unvarnished truth and call her on the propaganda. He said, very simply "I don't think so. I think that's taking things a bit too far."

COMMENT

In the past year in America there have been crippling snowstorms, hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, avalanches, forest fires and explosions. At no time during any of these disasters did FOX News business experts feel the need to excoriate foreign nations for their heartless refusal to offer foreign aid. Why would they? The world community comes together when the destruction is on such a massive scale that one country could not possibly cope on its own, e.g., the Indonesian tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, etc.

It is assumed that most industrialized nations can handle the costs of caring for their own citizens in a "normal" emergency situation. (In an odd twist, the Bush administration actually turned down many offers of aid during the Katrina disaster, at least until the uproar grew so loud that they were forced to reverse themselves and accept the aid.)

So why did FOX News feel it necessary to carp about this issue last Saturday?

While the loss of The Villages advertising must be quite a blow to the FNC bottom line, that's just a cost of doing business, hardly enough provocation to unleash a snide, vicious attack on our allies.

At one point, I wondered if this was a subtle example of reverse racism, i.e., the black people of Katrina had many offers of foreign aid, but the white people of central Florida did not. However, no one in their right mind would make that argument. While the devastation in central Florida is bad, it does not rise to the level of destruction that occurred in New Orleans.

Was FOX just using this as another chance to cast aspersions on other countries, thus continuing the Bush approach to diplomacy, i.e. "giving the bird to everyone except England and Australia"?

As for The Villages, it has golf courses designed by Arnold Palmer and Nancy Lopez, its own Villages newspaper, its own Visa cards and many other amenities.

Their website describes it this way:

In The Villages Florida, you'll discover two charming destinations for old-fashioned fun all year long: Spanish Springs Town Square and Lake Sumter Landing Market Square. These turn-of-the-century squares will make you feel like you've taken a step back in time to a simpler, more enjoyable way of life. Stroll along the quaint streets... do some shopping, grab a bite to eat, see a movie or sample one of "Florida's Best" at our microbrewery. When the sun goes down, the fun comes up with free entertainment every night in the gazebo... simply relax and enjoy the music or dance the night away! All this can be yours as a Village resident.

The financing of The Villages is carried by Citizens First Trust Company. CFTC is owned jointly by Sabal Company and Villages Bancorporation Inc., a financial holding company. Sabal has a strategic alliance with Reliance Trust Company of Atlanta, Georgia.

The question becomes whether or not these institutions will find themselves in financial difficulty as the result of the recent tornadoes.

However, such an important business issue was not addressed by the FOX analysts.