A major news event follows a very routine pattern. First, we get the hard news phase, where reporters relate the unfolding dramatic facts. In the second phase, those same reporters become analysts, commentators passing moral and political judgment on the story. By its nature, the first phase tends to be devoid of bias. But the second phase often comes loaded with politicized gotchas and predictable liberal editorializing.
Hurricane Katrina and its flooding aftermath in New Orleans is a good example. No one can fault reporters' emotional statements as they eyewitness the tragedy. Nor is it inappropriate for them to ask the tough questions about the government's -- local, state and federal -- wholly inadequate preparation and response. But viewers should be tiring of the Monday morning grandstanding, particularly the rush to judgment when so many facts are still as murky as the standing water in New Orleans.
But a truly deplorable aftermath of Katrina is the far left's attempts to stir up racial divisions and the news media's fanning of those flames. Both should be roundly condemned.
Friday's Washington Post had a front-page headline quoting a woman saying, "To Me, It Just Seems Like Black People Are Marked," as if even weather systems are members of the Klan. (Do tornadoes in Kansas have a "racial dimension," a racial animus? Would the Washington Post ever dream up a headline for that?) Apparently, America is so stacked with racism in the air that it's in the gale-force winds.
Stirring up racial anger was a common theme by week's end. On NBC, anchor Brian Williams lectured that the hurricane would "necessitate a national discussion on race, on oil, politics, class, infrastructure, the environment, and more." On ABC, Ted Koppel began by orating that New Orleans is 67 percent black, and "The slow response to the victims of Hurricane Katrina has led to questions about race, poverty, and a seemingly indifferent government." On CNN, Wolf Blitzer, who raised eyebrows by calling the hurricane victims "so poor and so black," prodded Rep. Elijah Cummings not once, but twice, to find racism in the slow response.
But perhaps the strongest news pitchman for the Vast Racist Conspiracy -- you know the one, like the skit on "Saturday Night Live" where Eddie Murphy paints himself white and they hand him free money at the bank -- was CNN anchor Aaron Brown. Brown baited Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones: "Do you think black America's sitting there thinking, if these were middle-class white people, there would be cruise ships in New Orleans, not the Superdome?"