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Howard Kurtz reviews the raging storm over the media coverage on Katrina and the supposedly new revelations that Bush was somehow warned about levee breaches without the word "breach" ever being mentioned. He also notes that the "newly uncovered" video footage actually had been in the possession of all the networks for months:
Since the AP released the videotaped Katrina meetings, liberals have been ripping the president for claiming he didn't know the extent of the devastation in those crucial early hours.
This is in no way a defense of the absolutely awful administration response to the hurricane, but the tape doesn't quite show Bush being told the levees were breached or were about to be breached. A government official named Max Mayfield says there is great concern "whether the levees will be topped or not," which is still a huge deal, but not a full-scale breach.
In fact, we've already had transcripts of the meeting, so all this did was provide television with some much-needed pictures. (In fact, all the networks had the FEMA video in their archives but didn't realize the news value.)
NBC's Lisa Myers yesterday obtained a videotape of another meeting in which Brownie--who's been blaming just about everything on the White House and Chertoff--said Bush was "really engaged" and "asking a lot of good questions." On that tape, Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blano reports that the New Orleans levees had not been breached.
Kurtz stops short of actually concluding that this is a non-story, declining to give an opinion on the matter despite being a media critic. However, he does point out the essential problems in this story and provides links to various voices in the media and blogosphere, including CQ. He includes in these links, but not in his preface, the fact that Governor Kathleen Blanco told Bush on the 29th -- in response to his direct question -- that the levees had not been breached. The AP now has the videotape of that sequence, something they left out of their initial reporting. I noted this yesterday when I compared the AP report to that of the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Rather than being distant and uninterested, Brown says that the president had been very engaged, calling him twice on the morning of the 29th before the meeting started at noon for updates -- and it was Bush who brought up levee breaches first, responding to media reports, and he got bad information from Blanco herself.
For anyone interested in media critique, Howard Kurtz is always a must-read; his column provides an invaluable look at what the media considers the hot controversy of the moment, and he is one of the few establishment media critics to engage the blogosphere.Sphere It View blog reactions
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