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Wednesday, September 7, 2005

In Defense of Katrina Coverage

Posted by on September 7 at 10:45 AM

Katie Couric stalking strandees as the Astrodome is one thing, but yesterday’s Oprah was something else. Shot over Saturday-Monday in New Orleans, the show collected a slew of stunning moments, starting with the chief of New Orleans’ largely homeless police force breaking down in sobs while confessing to Winfrey that kids and, yes, babies had been raped in the would-be succor of the Superdome.

At the Dome itself, Oprah was met by military guardsmen under orders to keep her out. Tour guide Mayor Ray Nagin explained that Winfrey really didn’t want to see what was inside. Oprah insisted: “I want to go in, I’m a strong woman,” but still, no dice. Eventually it got ugly, with Winfrey calling bullshit on the whole scene: “Tens of thousands of Americans lived inside there for five days, and now you won’t let one person see what it was like?” After requiring Winfrey to release the city of any and all liability, Mayor Nagin escorted her in.

The shocker wasn’t what Oprah saw inside, but what you couldn’t see: The place was pitch-black. I guess I could’ve imagined this would be the case: The city lost all power, and domes don’t have windows. But realizing that all the savagery we’ve heard aboutthe rapes, shootings, rotting corpses, accumulation of human wasteall took place over four days of complete darkness…it’s so much more horrifying than I imagined.

There were plenty more horrors captured on the show, mostly from the makeshift medical operations on highway underpasses and in the Louis Armstrong International Airport, where patients too far gone for treatment were simply placed in the morgue to “die in peace.” But the darkness of the Superdome, and what was allowed to happen there, is what’ll give me nightmares.

Thanks to Oprah for an amazing, damning show, of which even the smarmiest, star-fucking-est moments were illuminating. Case in point: Matthew fucking McConaughey managed to get to the dead and dying with a camera crew before U.S. aid workers could?