Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Nagin and the MSM Were Only Off by an Order of Magnitude

Some time soon after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, the media began using the "10,000 dead" figure in their assault on the Bush Presidency. It was bolstered by reports of "25,000 body bags" being readied to carry out the dead in a calamity that would exceed the Johnstown Flood's death toll five times over. And all because a Republican was in the White House.

But who came up with this figure and what method was used to reach it?

According to an Associated Press story posted on September 5 by WRAL.com, it was New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin. This is the earliest citation for the figure that I could reach (two earlier stories have been removed).
In New Orleans, Nagin upticked his estimate of the probable death toll in his city from merely thousands, telling NBC's "Today" show, "It wouldn't be unreasonable to have 10,000."
The story, however, provides no basis for Nagin's figure.

The Guardian notes (also on September 5) that Mayor Nagin told a radio station that "About 40,000 are unaccounted for." In the original AP story though, Deputy Police Superintendent W.J. Riley, who was actually on the ground in New Orleans and not making the media circuit, estimated that fewer than 10,000 people remained in the city. The Associated Press chose to bury Riley's comments in the thirteenth paragraph and concentrate on the sensationalistic claim apparently pulled from the ass of C. Ray Nagin.

The AP story featuring the "10,000 dead" figure ran in at least three hundred outlets on September 5. Then another hundred or so the next day. Equally clueless, Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco predicted a death toll of "several thousand," perhaps basing this on Nagin's Today Show brainfart.

The 10,000 figure played for 4 days without being contradicted. Finally, sanity began to dawn on September 9. God help us, the first publication that questioned Nagin's grotesquely inflated prediction is from France.

The latest death toll figure for the entire region affected by the storm stands at 970. Will the media now pounce on New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin for irresponsible scare-mongering? Don't bet on it.

If this weren't such a deadly serious business one could almost enjoy the spectacle of all these Huey Long politicians and gullible journalists running around like so many chickens with their heads cut off.