More Detail on Tom Rodrigue’s Mother

Valued reader trg34211 supplied a link to the following transcript from CNN’s Newsnight program. It features an interview with Tom Rodrigue, whose mother’s death by drowning after days of frantic phonecalls was tearfully described by Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard on Meet the Press last week: Newsnight with Aaron Brown.

It seems increasingly likely that Rodrigue’s mother died in the initial flooding on Monday, August 29, and that Broussard’s story about frantic phonecalls on the subsequent Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday was a lie.

I think it’s interesting that CNN didn’t point that out in this segment of their program. My guess would be that an editorial judgment was reached that nitpicking over the specifics of Broussard’s story would seem heartless and cruel in light of the tragedy Rodrigue endured. And I guess they’d have a point. Heartless, cruel nitpicking since 1996.

Anyway, here’s the transcript:

COOPER: …And, you know, every day, new numbers frame the story here in New Orleans. One of the grimmest numbers from yesterday was this: More than 30 bodies found inside a nursing home in St. Bernard Parish. Why weren’t these people evacuated before the storm struck? That is a question that is both glaring and tonight remains unanswered.

Here’s CNN’s Susan Candiotti.


SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tom Rodrigue is living a nightmare. He knew his 92-year-old mother, Eva, was in deep trouble. And he was helpless to get her out of harm’s way.

TOM RODRIGUE, VICTIM’S SON: We’ve had numerous storms before, and they know that, if they evacuate, she needs to go with them.

CANDIOTTI: His mother, Eva Rodrigue lived, and apparently died, with more than 30 others in St. Rita’s Nursing Home, which was flooded after Katrina swept into New Orleans. Some were evacuated, but many were not moved to safety in time and drowned.

RODRIGUE: She didn’t have Alzheimer’s. She knew who people was. She remembered things. And she could still get around on a walker. So she wasn’t an invalid, you know? So she could move around.

CANDIOTTI: Tom Rodrigue, himself a former emergency management director for Louisiana’s National Guard, was out of town when Katrina turned toward New Orleans. He started calling the nursing home Saturday, urging that it be evacuated.

RODRIGUE: You know, they indicated they were not going to leave.

CANDIOTTI: Sunday night, as Katrina struck, Rodrigue was 30 miles away directing emergency personnel for Jefferson Parish. He called the nursing home in St. Bernard Parish again, pleading with officials to get the residents out. He was told they were going to try.

RODRIGUE: I called the St. Bernard officials again and, you know, told them that, you know, they’ve got to get, you know, these people out. And they said they notified them, and that they weren’t — they refused to leave. And I said, “Well, you need to send the sheriff’s office down there and make them leave.” And he said, “I’m doing everything I can.”

CANDIOTTI: On Wednesday, 10 days after Katrina struck, authorities began removing bodies from St. Rita’s Nursing Home. Eva Rodrigue’s remains have not yet been found.

CNN has been so far unable to reach the nursing home owners to find out whether they had an evacuation plan and if the workers did all they could to clear the place out. CNN reviewed St. Rita’s records on the state’s web site. It indicates the home’s license expired last July, but we couldn’t reach state authorities to confirm that. For Tom Rodrigue, the pain is overwhelming.

RODRIGUE: She may not have been able to withstand the ordeal, even if they would have rescued her. But she deserved the chance, you know, to be rescued, instead of having to drown like a rat.

CANDIOTTI: Susan Candiotti, CNN, New Orleans.


8 Responses to “More Detail on Tom Rodrigue’s Mother”

  1. MaryEileen Says:

    I knew that was phony when I first heard it. My “Susan-Smith-Phony-Crying” alarm was going off, for one thing, and secondly, why on earth would she have drowned on Friday, after the floodwaters started receding, and after calling him every day that week? Plus, how could she have called him; weren’t the phone lines all down? Finally, Broussard used the same talking point I’d heard from the NO Mayor and at least one other Dem, which basically was some version of “Stop giving photo ops / press conferences / and just send some help!”, usually with tears and/or cursing for added effect.

    There’s no question that it’s terrible and very sad that this poor old woman drowned, along with all the others in that nusing home. But when somebody starts enhancing the story to make political points, that’s just reprehensible. Shame on him for using a woman’s death that way.

  2. MaryEileen Says:

    To clarify: I meant that the woman was calling her son, of course, not Broussard.

  3. trg34221 Says:

    I agree I find very interesting that CNN didn’t point out that Aaron Broussard had clearly used Eva Rodrigue tragic death to slam FEMA and divert blame away from local officials. I agree it was an editorial decision however is was more likely base on other factors like liberal bias.

  4. jbc Says:

    So, trg34221, you believe that the producers at CNN looked at the story and said, in effect, hm, yeah, it looks like Broussard was lying on Meet the Press. But having presented the evidence for that in our piece, let’s not make that connection explicitly, because Broussard is a Democrat, and the federal officials he was criticizing were appointed by Republicans. And we want to slant the news in favor of Democrats over Republicans.

    Is that how you think the decision played out? They explicitly based the decision (at least in terms of their in-house discussions) on something like that? Or does the liberal bias of places like CNN operate in a more-subtle manner?

  5. trg34221 Says:

    When it put it that way I don’t believe so. The subtle manner is more likely the cause in so far as the direct question didn’t get asked because the reporter didn’t want to know the answer. On another note if this man was a republican and expanding the truth to pin the blame on the Governor this would have been explored rather quickly and the truth would be national news for at least one 24 hour cyle of that I have no doubt. Therefore reporters bias is a real facter in getting to the truth. An this is just another example.

  6. Craig Says:

    It’s not really nikpicking if you realize that the story itself got its emotional weight and impact from the mental image of a sickly mother desperately and helplessly calling her son for help every day until she drowned. Otherwise, it would just have been one of the hundreds of tragic situations that have occurred. More likely, no one felt it necessary to grill the son himself right now about whether he or Broussard actually did the embellishing of the story. And for the one who did it, what was their objective in creating the myth around the situation?

    I credit John with at least giving some light to the likelihood that this “phone call” story is fraudulent. Those in the press and the blogosphere who made maximum political hay with the story will probably let it slip silently under their radar.

  7. Steve Says:

    I’d be interested to know if we can ever get the real story here. It still seems more likely to me that the emotional story was based more upon hope that she might be alive than deliberate deception.

    It’s like when someone loses their dog, and even after weeks of not finding it, they still keep putting up missing posters.

  8. Reporter Says:

    I have to wonder how many of you who sit in judgement of Mr. Broussard, calling his statements lies, have ever experienced, up close and personal… the scenes of death, destruction, chaos, lack of sleep for days, lack of assistance, and the emotional drain those factors would place on any person. I wonder how many of you have actually been responsible for organizing and directing any catastrophic unplanned event. I have to wonder how many of you have ever passed along information you believed to be true, or information that was based on what you heard in a moment of stress….believing it was true. Does it make you a lier? As an ex-television reporter, I know it is not unusual to interview ten people who “witnessed” a situation – and receive ten different views with varying incidental facts all leading up to the event itself. Why do American people insist on constantly seeking to see some veiled agenda at every turn? Do you have psychiatrist credentials? Do you actually know what extreme loss of sleep and stress can do to your mind while days and nights run together endlessly? Most people do not…and, in all likelihood, in the face of extreme grief, stress, and pressure, you too could have made timeline mistakes. Many of you seem to think it’s a critical timeline laced with fraud. Others think it was a secret plan to blame the government. I hope you sent a sympathy card to Mr. Rodrigue. After all, the real facts remain that Rodrigue did want his mother evacuated. It didn’t happen. She died unnecessarily. He was hard at work, possibly unable to reach her, and most likely believed his mother would be helped. It was a tragedy. By the way, how are you helping personally to assist victims of this crisis? Sitting in judgement? Is it really important what days Mr. Broussard stated? Does it change the fact that Rodrigue’s mother along with many others died? Isn’t all of this “kicking a person down in the face of adversity” really trivial?

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.