On the September 27 editions of CNN's Anderson Cooper 360 and NewsNight with Aaron Brown, anchor Anderson Cooper billed a report on former Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) director Michael D. Brown's congressional testimony as an effort to "check what he said against the facts." In the segment that followed, however, CNN congressional correspondent Ed Henry simply reported on the "war of words" between Brown and members of the House committee investigating the handling of the Hurricane Katrina disaster by local, state, and federal government agencies. Despite Cooper's introduction, Henry did not offer viewers the facts surrounding the Katrina response, nor did he discuss the veracity of Brown's statements. He merely noted that Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D), in a "blistering" response, had described Brown as "either out of touch with the truth or reality." But if Henry had actually fact-checked Brown's testimony, he would have identified as clearly false Brown's claim that Blanco excluded several parishes from her federal emergency assistance request.
Under questioning from Rep. Steve Buyer (R-IN) during the September 27 House hearing, Brown claimed that President Bush's August 27 declaration of emergency for Louisiana did not include Orleans, Jefferson, and Plaquemines parishes because Blanco had excluded them from her request earlier that day:
BUYER: So I'd like to know why did the president's federal emergency assistance declaration of August 27th not include the parishes of Orleans, Jefferson, and Plaquemines?
BROWN: Under the law, the governor makes the request for the declaration, and the governors of the states specify what areas, what counties they want included in that declaration. And, based upon the governor's request, that's the recommendation that we make to the president. So if a governor does not request a particular county or a particular parish, that's not included in the request.
BUYER: All right. Orleans Parish is New Orleans. I was listening to my colleague, Mr. [Rep. William J.] Jefferson's [D-LA], questions about when they talked about, you know, they asked for this assistance for three days and the president responded the very next day, not the day that it was made -- the request -- but the governor of Louisiana actually excluded New Orleans from the president's federal emergency assistance declaration?
BROWN: Again, congressman, we looked at the request. The governors make the request by --
BUYER: Let me ask this: Since you went through the exercise in [Hurricane] Pam [a FEMA training exercise], was that not shocking to you that the governor would exclude New Orleans from the declaration?
BUYER: When that request came in excluding these three parishes, did you question it?
BROWN: We questioned it. But I made the decision that we were going to go ahead and move assets in regardless, because we have the ability to add those parishes.
In fact, Blanco requested a federal declaration of emergency "in all southeastern parishes," which clearly included the three parishes in question, as the weblog Think Progress has noted. Despite Brown's assertion that Blanco was to blame for this oversight, the FEMA officials who drafted the federal declaration on August 27, which included a list of the parishes to which it applied, apparently were responsible for the omission -- a broad swath of parishes in the southern part of the state was omitted. The declaration was then amended on August 29 to include the missing parishes.
Henry was not the only journalist to highlight Blanco's criticism of Brown's testimony without noting Brown's false allegation regarding her emergency declaration request. Reports featured on the September 27 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight and the September 28 edition of CNN's Daybreak also ignored Brown's false claim, as did segments on the September 27 editions of Fox News' The Big Story with John Gibson and Special Report with Brit Hume. The Associated Press also overlooked this aspect of Brown's testimony, as did numerous newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, The Dallas Morning News, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.