CBS Welcomes Obama to Staten Island, But Criticized Bush Post-Katrina

CBS ran a puff piece Friday morning on President Obama's visit to hurricane-ravaged Staten Island, which stood in stark contrast to its hostile treatment of President Bush's visit to the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina.

CBS played into the Obama PR strategy, simply noting that he "pledged the government's support" to Staten Island residents and "met with families who've lost everything." In addition, they aired his plea for the insurance companies to support the victims, afterward quoting residents who were upset with the insurance companies.

Meanwhile, CBS had no such love for President Bush in 2005 when they reported victims of Hurricane Katrina "want the President to wake up and smell the coffee," and pointed out how Bush was "speaking inside an air-conditioned tent" in obvious contrast to the hard-hit Gulf Coast residents.

CBS News's Harry Smith showed his silly concern over churches welcoming Katrina refugees. "Do I need to be concerned that I'm going to go live with a church family, are they going to proselytize me, are they going to say, 'You better come to church with me or else, I'm, you know, you're not going to get your breakfast this morning?'" he posed to Pastor Rick Warren.

A CBS News poll at the time featured three liberal questions that the media had been asking: "Was reduced federal spending on levees a factor in flooding?", "Did having troops in Iraq delay hurricane response?" and "Did the race and class of those stranded affect speed of the response?" As the MRC reported, "Two of three received affirmative responses from those surveyed."

A transcript of the segment, which aired on CBS This Morning on Novembe 16 at 7:16 a.m. EST, is as follows:

NORAH O'DONNELL: And we have dramatic new evidence of the power of Superstorm Sandy. This video has just been released, showing flooding that damaged train tunnels between New Jersey and New York City. Many residents still remain without power or heat, and struggling to survive. Elaine Quijano is on New York's Staten Island, President Obama was there yesterday to see the damage. Elaine, good morning.

ELAINE QUIJANO: Good morning, Norah and Charlie. Well the job of rebuilding here is so big that President Obama has assigned a federal point person. He asked Housing and Urban Development Secretary Sean Donovan to work with local officials as they begin the long process of recovery.

(Video Clip)

QUIJANO:  In hard hit Staten Island, where residents are just beginning to rebuild their lives --

BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States: Hi guys!

QUIJANO: President Obama pledged the government's support and urged insurance companies to pledge theirs.

OBAMA: The insurance companies and some of the other private sector folks who are involved in this, we need you to show some heart and some spirit in helping people rebuild as well.

KEHANO: The President met with families who've lost everything, like Sheila and Dominic Traina. Superstorm Sandy destroyed the home they'd lived in for 42 years, and now more than two weeks after the disaster, Dominic says he's still waiting to hear back from his insurance companies.

DOMINIC TRAINA: When you go to bed at night, you don't sleep because your stomach is in a knot and it's been in a knot for the last two and half weeks for me.

QUIJANO: Sandy may cost the insurance industry up to $25 billion, according to one estimate. FEMA's national flood insurance program expects up to $12 billion in Sandy-related claims, far exceeding the three and half billion dollars it collects in annual premiums.

The agency may be forced to ask Congress for a bailout. For now, officials say they're working on getting money to those who need it, even before some claims are settled.

MIKE BYRNE, FEMA: While we're working out the real details of exactly the amount of contents, the amount of damage, you know why would we wait? Why wouldn't we give them a little bit up front to get started, to get themselves on the road to recovery?

QUIJANO: Still, that's not been the case for Janice Kennedy. She's a widow and single mother, who lost her house during the storm. She has flood insurance, but has been told it will be 8 weeks before an adjuster can look at her property.

JANICE KENNEDY: Everybody in this neighborhood, we're devastated. We're just waiting for the insurance companies to come in, adjust us, give us our money. Let us move on, you've gotten your money every month, we're just asking what we've paid for. That's it!

QUIJANO: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said he plans to request some $30 billion in federal aid for recovery efforts here. Obama administration officials say they can't comment on that, they haven't seen the details of that request. Charlie and Norah?

O'DONNELL: Elaine Quijano, thank you people still need help.

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014