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Ellis Hennican says show me the money! while John Gibson accuses Nagin administration of theft

Reported by Chrish - October 5, 2005

John Gibson's "My Word" segment today 10/04/05 focused on Bush's current political weakness, which Gibson says is exemplified by his throwing $200 billion at New Orleans, and by his choice of Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court.

Gibson says "This is what happens when the president is politically weak. He is less likely to take chances. ...
A politically weak president throws $200 billion dollars at the problem. A politically strong president — a Republican — might say, "Hey, we have to rebuild the Gulf Coast, but let's not go crazy on the money." ... It's laughable that the Democrats — like Terry McAuliffe , who was on this show last week — would say Bush isn't doing enough for the Gulf Coast and we need a Marshall Plan. Two hundred billion isn't a Marshall Plan?"

Several minutes later he had on Ellis Hennican, a New Orleans native and writer for Newsday, to talk about today's announcement by Mayor Ray Nagin that ~3,000 city employees would be laid off because New Orleans is broke.

Hennican said to Gibson, you keep talking about $200 billion....where is it?? Ray Nagin could use a piece of that just about now." Gibson, apparently caught off guard, laughed and said "don't ask me - I think it's your FEMA that's ..." they laughed and overtalked, Hennican saying oh now it's MY FEMA.

Gibson asked "What's going on? Why is Ray Nagin out of money?" and when Hennican said it was a poor city to begin with Gibson interjected "it was a corrupt city, so they stole some of it, somebody did, and there's none left?" while Hennican hemmed and hawed in the background. He finally said that, "oddly", Nagin has been somewhat of a reformer, and yeah, there was a history of corruption there (comment: where is there NOT?) but it's a city of poor people and it was always on the edge of financial trouble and this disaster put them over the edge.

Over a chyron saying "Will New Orleans ever recover from Katrina?" Gibson said the HUD Secretary (Alphonso Johnson, not named) predicted that New Orleans would be smaller and whiter when the rebuilding was completed. Hennican seemed to not get or to ignore the inference there and said New Orleans has to come back and the people who love it will come back, in time.

Gibson wondered that if Nagin eliminated all those jobs, who would drive the buses for the tourists, who will collect the taxes, and Hennican replied "That's a problem. They need help, John, so don't join that chorus of all of a sudden after spending all this money in Iraq, getting stingy with Americans when they need it, we need your help, man!"

Gibson was laughing, saying "why are you blaming me? Nagin keeps hollering for help but he doesn't seem to do anything for himself. " Needing to point out the obvious for Gibson, Hennican said this was a big tragedy, John. It would be nice if New Orleans could help themselves but when an American city suffers this kind of tragedy, we gotta rally around! When Gibson asked if Nagin's action today would pop some "federal" money his way, Hennican turned directly to the camera and pleaded for his city: "Pleeease, now's the time to help, guys. Do we really want half the city employees of New Orleans to be out of work right now?"

Comment: Gibson's feigned "who, me?" was ridiculous coming as it did five minutes after his My Word segment lamented the proposed spending to recover the city. His casual insinuation that Nagin and his administration had looted the city treasury in its time of crisis may well be libelous. Given the tone on FOX lately one could reasonably wonder if the racial make-up of the city factored into the remark. Regardless of that angle, it was a stunning accusation for a "journalist" to make on a "news" program. It's rumormongering, not interviewing.

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