Remember the good ‘ol days (last month), when TV and print media were slapping each others back – congratulating each other on what great work they’d done in reporting on Hurricane Katrina?
What if everything you thought you knew about life in New Orleans immediately after Katrina turned out not to be true?
Brian Thevenot and Gordon Russell of The Times-Picayune report that sensational reports of anarchy, murder, and rape at Superdome and convention center have been grossly overstated.
…That the nation’s front-line emergency management believed the body count would resemble that of a bloody battle in a war is but one of scores of examples of myths about the Dome and the Convention Center treated as fact by evacuees, the media and even some of New Orleans’ top officials, including the mayor and police superintendent. As the fog of warlike conditions in Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath has cleared, the vast majority of reported atrocities committed by evacuees have turned out to be false, or at least unsupported by any evidence, according to key military, law enforcement, medical and civilian officials in positions to know.
“I think 99 percent of it is bulls—,” said Sgt. 1st Class Jason Lachney, who played a key role in security and humanitarian work inside the Dome. “Don’t get me wrong, bad things happened, but I didn’t see any killing and raping and cutting of throats or anything. … Ninety-nine percent of the people in the Dome were very well-behaved.”
Dr. Louis Cataldie, the state Health and Human Services Department administrator overseeing the body recovery operation, said his teams were inundated with false reports about the Dome and Convention Center.
“We swept both buildings several times, because we kept getting reports of more bodies there,” Cataldie said. “But it just wasn’t the case.”
Orleans Parish District Attorney Eddie Jordan said authorities had confirmed only four murders in New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina – making it a typical week in a city that anticipated more than 200 homicides this year. Jordan expressed outrage at reports from many national media outlets that suffering flood victims had turned into mobs of unchecked savages.
“I had the impression that at least 40 or 50 murders had occurred at the two sites,” he said. “It’s unfortunate we saw these kinds of stories saying crime had taken place on a massive scale when that wasn’t the case. And they (national media outlets) have done nothing to follow up on any of these cases, they just accepted what people (on the street) told them. … It’s not consistent with the highest standards of journalism.”The reporting that CNN, Fox, NBC, ABC, CBS, etc. were all so jacked up about? They actually contributed to the response problems. Police Chief Eddie Compass said rumors (especially those reported as fact by the 24/7 cable outlets) had often crippled authorities’ response to reported lawlessness, sending badly needed resources to respond to situations that turned out not to exist.
The Seattle Times (which owns the Times-Picayune) published a shorter version of the story yesterday.