Nearly 14 years have passed since Hurricane Katrina and the federal levee failures inundated New Orleans with floodwaters, killing 1,833 people and submerging 80 percent of the city for weeks on end.
But apparently, politicians still haven’t learned not to weigh in on a traumatic experience they know nothing about.
In the wake of widespread Midwestern flooding, Iowa Congressman Steve King made ignorant Katrina-related remarks on par with those uttered by President George Bush (“Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job”) and House Speaker Dennis Hastert (“It makes no sense to spend billions of dollars to rebuild a city that’s seven feet under sea level”).
During a town hall in Charter Oak, Iowa, King praised Iowans for “taking care of each other”—in contrast to Katrina victims, who he said only wanted government assistance.
“I saw that from the air and from the ground and went back and did what we could to help those folks down there,” King said. “But here’s what FEMA tells me: ‘We go to a place like New Orleans and everybody’s looking around saying, who’s gonna help me, who’s gonna help me? ... They’re just always gratified when they come and see how Iowans take care of each other.”
Where to begin? First, it’s totally inappropriate to compare victims’ responses to disasters. Second, federal troops and relief convoys did not arrive in New Orleans until Saturday, September 3, 2005— five days after Katrina made landfall there. If the “Cajun Navy,” school bus thief, and countless other heroic New Orleanians had not taken care of each other, even of us more would have died.
But New Orleanians already knew that—which Mayor LaToya Cantrell affirmed today in a press release.
“The people of New Orleans know who we are. We know what we did for each other in the weeks after the storm, and on every day after. I don’t know where Rep. King was when I was standing shoulder to shoulder with my neighbors fighting to bring our community back— but I know who was there helping, and we all know who wasn’t.
“My heart and New Orleans’ love goes out to our fellow Americans struggling with floods across the Midwest. We know what you’re going through, and we know you need and deserve a better quality of person representing you in your time of need. New Orleans is here for you, like we were here for each other. We know King doesn’t speak for you, and he doesn’t speak the truth.”