Broussard Spokesperson: ‘Meet the Press’ Story About Rodrigue’s Mother Based on ‘A Misunderstanding’

Valued reader trg34221 forwarded this MSNBC article via the comments on an earlier item: An emotional moment and a misunderstanding.

Since the broadcast of the interview, which elevated Broussard to national prominence, a number of bloggers have questioned the validity of Broussard’s story.

Subsequent reporting identified the man whom Broussard was referring to in the Meet the Press interview as Thomas Rodrigue, the Jefferson Parish emergency services director. Contacted on Friday by MSNBC.com, Rodrigue acknowledged that his 92-year-old mother and more than 30 other people died in the St. Rita nursing home. They had not been evacuated and the flood waters overtook the residence.

The chronology of the phone calls described by Broussard came under particular scrutiny by bloggers.

Rodrigue said he didn’t see or hear Broussard’s comments on Meet the Press. When told of the sequence of phone calls that Broussard described on Meet the Press, Rodrigue said “No, no, that’s not true.”

“I can’t tell you what he said that day, why he was confused, I’m assuming he was under a tremendous amount of pressure,” Rodrigue told MSNBC. “I contacted the nursing home two days before the storm [on Aug. 27th] and again on the 28th of August,” Rodrigue said. “At the same time I talked to the nursing home I also talked to the emergency manager for St. Bernard Parish,” Rodrigue said, “to encourage that nursing home to evacuate like they were supposed to and they didn’t until it was too late.”

Broussard must have been confused “because I was calling, not my mother calling me, I was calling her,” Rodrigue said. Further, Rodrigue says he never made any calls after Monday, the day he figures his mother died, based on conversations he’s had with another person who had a family member perish inside St. Rita’s. Officials believe that the residents of St. Rita’s died on Monday, Aug. 29, not on Friday, Sept. 2, as Broussard had suggested.

Broussard could not be reached for comment Friday, but Jackie Bauer, a spokeswoman for Broussard who was present during the Meet the Press interview, said “it was a misunderstanding.”

Late on Friday, Bauer told MSNBC.com: “I was there when he (Broussard) was doing that, when he was saying that, I think he was meaning that he was calling, he was calling and trying to talk to Tommy and telling him ‘don’t worry,’ trying to console Tommy, ‘don’t worry, we’ll get her out, don’t worry we’ll get her out.’”

When asked how Broussard could have gotten the details of his mother’s story so wrong, Rodrigue said, Broussard “was emotional, absolutely and he was from the time that he found out that, you know, that my mother had died and I was here doing what I’m required to do for the citizens for Jefferson Parish.”

So, there you have it. The only real question remaining at this point is whether Broussard acted innocently, getting “confused” about the chronology in the stress of everything that was happening, or whether he in fact knew what he was doing, and chose to alter the story to bolster his case about the slowness of the federal response.

I’m not sure there’s any way to answer that at this point. It probably comes down to your personal level of cynicism as applied to politicians generally, and to local (Democrat) government officials in Louisiana specfically. For myself, being fairly cynical, I think he probably was intentionally lying. It’s not a slam-dunk, but for me it leans pretty heavily in that direction.

As my final comment on the whole thing, I wanted to mention something I noticed about the way the controversy got covered in blogland. I was one of a whole bunch of people who linked to the Broussard MTP appearance as soon as video of it became available on the web (on Sunday, September 4). I’m not aware of anyone else who raised the question of his credibility as early as I did (on Monday, September 5, in Was Broussard telling the truth?), though maybe I missed somebody in Rightyland, since I tend not to pay too much attention to them. Certainly plenty of those folks have chimed in since then about having doubted him from the beginning.

I pointed out the discrepancies between the media accounts and Broussard’s version of events on Thursday, September 8 (in Blame game), basing that on the news accounts posted in comments by the same trg34221 who contributed the MSNBC link I’m pointing to above. (Who is this person of mystery, anyway? Does he/she have a weblog?)

On September 10 I posted another item (More detail on Tom Rodrigue’s mother), again linking to a news item supplied by trg34221.

On September 14, righty weblogger John of wuzzadem posted an item about the story: Bumped: Another Katrina Myth: Aaron Broussard’s “Emotional” Appearance on MTP. John linked to the same news articles linked to in my pieces of September 8 and September 10. Interestingly, the same stuff I’d been posting about for almost a week, attracting relatively little notice in terms of inbound links, became an overnight sensation once John posted about it; he received oodles of inbound links in the following days, including one from high-profile wingnut Michelle Malkin.

I don’t begrudge him the traffic, and I appreciate that he did link to me in his original item. The actual way he cited me rankles just a teency bit, though: “To their credit, even Lies.com issued a correction after initially reporting on Broussard’s accusations…”

Sigh. I guess it’s human nature for a righty to frame my coverage of the story that way. See, from my perspective, this is the sort of thing that should make a self-styled conservative sit up and take notice: I didn’t have to make a big deal about Broussard. But I saw an example of what appeared to be a politician lying, and I pointed it out and followed up on it, despite the fact that the politician in question was making a political point (that the feds screwed up the Katrina response) that I agree with.

See, that’s called “being objective.” It’s the sort of thing that the mainstream media does (or at least did, historically) all the time. Sadly, it’s a form of behavior that is increasingly rare these days.

I fall short of that standard a lot (obviously). But I’m doing my best to live up to it. As I described in the manifesto, I take this issue pretty seriously. I wish more people did.

5 Responses to “Broussard Spokesperson: ‘Meet the Press’ Story About Rodrigue’s Mother Based on ‘A Misunderstanding’”

  1. trg34221 Says:

    I agree the story is exposed and the truth is out! You were the first person to doubt Mr. Broussard’s initial statements. As far as myself (the mystery guy) no weblog I do have a conservative outlook in the John McCain vain. I have worked as a first responder for years and currently have some experience with Nursing Home regulatory compliance so this story was of great interest to me. As expected I knew at some point the state would prosecute the nursing home owners.

    On another note I hope the media demands or Mr. Broussard on his own apologies to the first responders he so emotional maligned they did not deserve to be caught in the political grandstanding between the local officials and FEMA.

  2. Craig Says:

    For what its worth John, I gave you credit for questioning the credibility of Broussard back on the 10th. Your early calling out of Broussard got caught in the blogosphere no-man’s land. Any lefty blogger who scans your site didn’t want to link to something that went against the current hot button story of the New Orleans flooding. Not enough righties read your blog to use it to start the counter-point momentum. But when one finally did notice, the flock just tends to give credit to the “one of their own” who provides the fodder for the argument.

  3. jbc Says:

    Good point. And for what it’s worth, John at Wuzzadem was kind enough, after seeing me whine about it here, to alter his posting to give me credit for having been questioning Broussard almost since the time of his original appearance on MTP, which made me feel better (if still a little embarrassed for being a whiner).

  4. Knowing Humans Says:

    Knowing Humans: 1st Blog To Question False Meet The Press Story

    Only a few hours after the Sep 4 broadcast, I blogged [...] (Lies.com seems to have been the next to get on record questioning Broussard, with this Sep 5 posting.)

  5. trg34221 Says:

    Here is Mr. Broussard again on Meet the Press this time Russert is a little more critical but the man is obviously lying and spinning away about how he learned of the details of his friend’s mother death. (Today his staff told him) He never questions the basic facts i.e. the people who could have save Mrs. Rodrigue were in fact the locals and not FEMA! Of interest he still claim the women died on Friday….

    The best part in the video was just after Russert plays the crying part from three weeks ago… the camera moves to Mr. Broussard who tries a couple of fake whimpers… then he gets his composure in an obviously (poor acting) method it looked rather silly watching it live… even Russert wasn’t going to buy another break down… I include the transcript but he really doesn’t say anything surprised Russert let him filibuster so much…

    (Video Tape) Three weeks ago…..

    Mr. Russert: Hold on. Hold on, sir. Shouldn’t the mayor of New Orleans and the governor of New Orleans bear some responsibility? Couldn’t they have been much more forceful, much more effective and much more organized in evacuating the area?

    Mr. Broussard: Sir, they were told, like me, every single day, “The cavalry is coming.” On the federal level, “The cavalry is coming. The cavalry’s coming. The cavalry’s coming.” The guy who runs this building I’m in, emergency management, he’s responsible for everything. His mother was trapped in St. Bernard Nursing Home and every day she called him and said, “Are you coming, son? Is somebody coming?” And he said, “Yeah, Mama. Somebody’s coming to get you. Somebody’s coming to get you on Tuesday.” “Somebody’s coming to get you on Wednesday.” “Somebody’s coming to get you on Thursday.” “Somebody’s coming to get you on Friday.” And she drowned Friday night. She drowned Friday night.

    Mr. Russert: Mr. President…

    Mr. Broussard: Nobody’s coming to get us. Nobody’s coming to get us. The secretary has promised. Everybody’s promised. They’ve had press conferences. I’m sick of the press conferences. For God sakes, shut up and send us somebody.

    (End videotape)

    Mr. Broussard: I’ve never watched this. Why are they taking me here?

    Mr. Russert: Mr. Broussard, obviously that was a very painful, emotional moment, but let me show you some of the…

    Mr. Broussard: Sir, I’ve never looked at that. I’ve never heard that. I’m sorry. You take me to a sad place when you let me hear that.

    Mr. Russert: Well, it was important, I think…

    Mr. Broussard: Go ahead. Go ahead, sir. Go ahead, sir.

    Mr. Russert: Thank you very much.

    Mr. Broussard: Go ahead.

    Mr. Russert: All right, sir. Thank you very much. Take your time. But it’s important I think…

    Mr. Broussard: Go ahead.

    Mr. Russert: …that our viewers see that again because MSNBC and other blog organizations have looked into the facts behind your comments and these are the conclusions, and I’ll read it for you and our viewers. It says: “An emotional moment and a misunderstanding. Since the broadcast of [Meet the Press] interview…a number of bloggers have questioned the validity of Broussard’s story. Subsequent reporting identified the man whom Broussard was referring to…as Thomas Rodrigue, the Jefferson Parish emergency services director. …Rodrigue acknowledged that his 92-year-old mother and more than 30 other people died in the St. Rita nursing home. They had not been evacuated and the flood waters overtook the residence. … When told of the sequence of phone calls that Broussard described, Rodrigue said `No, no, that’s not true. …I contacted the nursing home two days before the storm [on Saturday, Aug. 27th] and again on [Sunday] the 28th. …At the same time I talked to the nursing home I had also talked to the emergency manager…to encourage that nursing home to evacuate…’ Rodrigue says he never made any calls after Monday, the day he figures his mother died… Officials believe the residents of St. Rita’s died on Monday, the 29th, not on Friday, Sept. 2, as Broussard has suggested.”

    Mr. Broussard: Sir, this…

    Mr. Russert: Go ahead.

    Mr. Broussard: Sir, this gentleman’s mother died on that Friday before I came on the show. My own staff came up to me and said what had happened. I had no idea his mother was in the nursing home. It was related to me by my own staff, who had tears in their eyes, what had happened. That’s what they told me. I went to that man, who I love very much and respect very much, and he had collapsed like a deck of cards. And I took him and put him in my hospital room with my prayer books and told him to sit there and cry out and pray away and give honor to his mother with his tears and his prayers.
    Now, everything that was told to me about the preface of that was told to me by my own employees. Do you think I would interrogate a man whose mother just died and said, “Tommy, I want to know everything about why your mother just died”? The staff, his own staff, told me those words. Sir, that woman is the epitome of abandonment. She was left in that nursing home. She died in that nursing home. Tommy will tell you that he tried to rescue her and could not get her rescued. Tommy could tell you that he sent messages there through the EOC and through, I think, the sheriff’s department, “Tell Mama everything’s going to be OK. Tell Mama we’re coming to get her.”
    Listen, sir, somebody wants to nitpick a man’s tragic loss of a mother because she was abandoned in a nursing home? Are you kidding? What kind of sick mind, what kind of black-hearted people want to nitpick a man’s mother’s death? They just buried Eva last week. I was there at the wake. Are you kidding me? That wasn’t a box of Cheerios they buried last week. That was a man’s mother whose story, if it is entirely broadcast, will be the epitome of abandonment. It will be the saddest tale you ever heard, a man who was responsible for safekeeping of a half a million people, mother’s died in the next parish because she was abandoned there and he can’t get to her and he tried to get to her through EOC. He tried to get through the sheriff’s office. He tries every way he can to get there. Somebody wants to debate those things? My God, what sick-minded person wants to do that?
    What kind of agenda is going on here? Mother Nature doesn’t have a political party. Mother Nature can vote a person dead and Mother Nature can vote a community out of existence. But Mother Nature is not playing any political games here. Somebody better wake up. You want to come and live in this community and see the tragedy we’re living in? Are you sitting there having your coffee, you’re in a place where toilets flush and lights go on and everything’s a dream and you pick up your paper and you want to battle ideology and political chess games? Man, get out of my face. Whoever wants to do that, get out of my face.
    Mr. Russert: Mr. Broussard, the people who are questioning your comments are saying that you accused the federal government and the bureaucracy of murder, specifically calling on the secretary of Homeland Security and using this as an example to denounce the federal government. And what they’re saying is, in fact, it was the local government that did not evacuate Eva Rodrigue on Friday or on Saturday. And they’re making that, in fact…

    Mr. Broussard: Sir…

    Mr. Russert: Let me just finish. I’ll give you a chance to respond.

    Mr. Broussard: Yes.

    Mr. Russert: And, in fact, the owners of the nursing home, Salvador and Mable Mangano, have been indicted with 34 counts of negligent homicide by the Louisiana state attorney general. So it was the owners of the nursing home and the local government that are responsible for the lack of evacuation and not the federal government. Is that fair?
    Mr. Broussard: Sir, with everything I said on Meet the Press, the last punctuation of my statements were the story that I was going to tell in about maybe two sentences. It just got emotional for me, sir. Talk about the context of everything I said. Were we abandoned by the federal government? Absolutely we were. Were there more people that abandoned us? Make the list. The list can go on for miles. That’s for history to document. That’s what Congress does best, burn witches. Let Congress do their hearings. Let them find the witches. Let them burn them. The media burns witches better than anybody. Let the media go find the witches and burn them. But as I stood on the ground, sir, for day after day after day after day, nobody came here, sir. Nobody came. The federal government didn’t come. The Red Cross didn’t come. I’ll give you a list of people that didn’t come here, sir, and I was here.
    So anybody that’s saying, “Oh, they were all here,” you know, they weren’t living on my planet, there weren’t living in my parish. They did not come. I can’t make it any more clearer than that. Did inefficiencies, did bureaucracy commit murder here? Absolutely, it did. And Congress and the media will flush it out and find it out and those people will be held accountable. You’ve already given an example. These people in the nursing home in St. Bernard, they’re getting indicted. Good. They ought to be indicted. They ought to get good old-fashioned Western justice. They ought to be taken out and administered to like they did in the old West.
    Yes, there’s a lot of people that they’re going to find that are going to be villains in this situation, but they’re also going to find for the most part that the Peter Principle was squared. The Peter Principle is you promote somebody to the level of incompetency, but when you promote somebody to the level of incompetency in a life or death department, then those people should be ousted. Those people should be strung up. Those people should be burned at the stake. And I’m sure Congress and the press is going to do that.

    Mr. Russert: At the local, state and federal level.

    Mr. Broussard: Sir, at every level. Are you kidding? This is a jigsaw puzzle. This is a mosaic. The blame will be shared by everybody. The heroic deeds will be magnified as individual stories of heroics come out from different people and agencies that did eventually come here. Sir, this is chaos. It’s organized chaos at best. There are plenty of heroes that have to be uncovered. There are plenty of villains that have to be uncovered. Let the process go on. Let it happen. I don’t have time to do it, sir. I didn’t even watch my own broadcast that you played to me in my ear. It pained me to hear that again because Tommy Rodrigue is a friend of mine. He works for me. I was at his mother’s wake.
    When somebody wants to nit-pick these details, I don’t know what sick minds creates this black-hearted agenda, but it’s sick. I mean, let us recover. Let us rebuild. If somebody wants me to debate them on national TV, hey, buddy, be my guest. Make my day. Put me at a podium when I got a full night’s sleep and you will not like matching me against anybody that you want. That person is going to be in trouble. If this station or anybody else or any other station wants to do that, you just give me a full night’s sleep, sir. I haven’t had one in about 30 days. But you wind me up with a full night’s sleep, I’ll debate every detail of everything you want, sir.
    Mr. Russert: Aaron Broussard, the president of Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, we thank you for coming on and correcting the record and putting it in context. And we wish you well and to all your people in the recovery. And we hope to talk to you again.

    Mr. Broussard: Thank you, sir.

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/9438988/

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