"Fox Facts": Timeline omitted Dem governor's state of emergency declaration, early levee breaks


The September 12 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes included a deceptive on-screen Hurricane Katrina timeline that purported to cover developments in the storm and emergency response from August 24-30. Echoing a Bush administration official who falsely told The Washington Post that Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D) failed to declare a state of emergency, Fox's timeline omitted Blanco's August 26 declaration of a state of emergency while including similar declarations by the Republican governors of Mississippi and Alabama. Similarly, the timeline echoed Bush administration claims that the levee breaks were unexpected: The timeline indicated that, on August 30, three New Orleans levees broke and "water poured into [the] city" but did not mention that two levees that broke on the morning of August 29, triggering catastrophic flooding.

Under the header "Fox Facts," each of the 22 events identified in the timeline was displayed briefly at the bottom of the screen during an interview with Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) about government failures in responding to the disaster. Two of the entries read: "8/27: MISSISSIPPI GOVERNOR DECLARED A STATE OF EMERGENCY"; and "8/28: ALABAMA GOVERNOR DECLARED A STATE OF EMERGENCY." But the timeline made no mention of the state of emergency that Blanco declared for Louisiana on August 26. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and Alabama Gov. Bob Riley are both Republicans.

During the segment in which the deceptive "Fox Facts" timeline ran, co-host Alan Colmes responded to Romney's criticisms of Blanco and the Louisiana state government by correctly pointing out that "the governor actually put out an emergency resolution on the 26th."

Fox's omission closely follows the Bush administration's reported strategy of shifting blame to Louisiana state officials.

The "Fox Facts" timeline also deceptively stated that on August 30, "3 NEW ORLEANS LEVEES BROKE & WATER POUR POURED INTO CITY" without noting that two levees -- including the critical 17th Street Canal levee -- actually broke on the morning of August 29, resulting in massive flooding. As The Wall Street Journal reported (subscription required) on September 12, "The 17th Street Canal levee ... was breached early Monday [August 29], the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers now believes, resulting in a slower-rising flood over a larger area." In addition, the Journal reported that "[t]he New Orleans office of the National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning at 8:14 a.m. Monday, saying "a levee breach occurred along the industrial canal at Tennessee Street. 3 to 8 feet of water is expected due to the breach."

Once again, Fox's inaccurate version of events closely echoes Bush administration spin. As Media Matters noted, after touring the devastation caused to New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina on September 12, President Bush met with reporters and repeated the specious claim that his discredited statement -- "I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees" -- was based on news reports from the morning after the storm indicating that New Orleans had "dodged a bullet." In fact, as Media Matters has noted, media outlets were already reporting levee breaches on Monday, August 29.

Posted In
Hurricane Katrina, Natural Disasters
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