45 Stupid Quotes About Hurricane Katrina

Mind-Numbing Quotes by Politicians and Media Personalities

Bush Speaks At Conservative Political Action Conference
Brendan Smialowski / Getty Images

Hurricane Katrina unleashed unprecedented destruction and devastation on the city of New Orleans as well as the states of Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. However, its aftermath yielded a controversial cleanup and rescue strategy that many felt was inadequate and out of touch with the victims' experiences. Here, the worst, silliest, and most clueless comments and quotes from politicians and media personalities in the center of the disaster relief efforts.

President George W. Bush

"I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees."

—On "Good Morning America," Sept. 1, 2005, six days after repeated warnings from experts about the scope of damage expected from Hurricane Katrina.

"Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job."

—To FEMA director Michael Brown, while touring hurricane-ravaged Mississippi, Sept. 2, 2005 

"We've got a lot of rebuilding to do ... The good news is -- and it's hard for some to see it now — that out of this chaos is going to come a fantastic Gulf Coast, like it was before. Out of the rubbles of Trent Lott's house — he's lost his entire house — there's going to be a fantastic house. And I'm looking forward to sitting on the porch." (Laughter)

—Touring hurricane damage, Mobile, Ala., Sept. 2, 2005.

"What didn't go right?'"

—As quoted by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), after she urged President Bush to fire FEMA Director Michael Brown "because of all that went wrong, of all that didn't go right" in the Hurricane Katrina relief effort.

"I believe the town where I used to come – from Houston, Texas, to enjoy myself, occasionally too much – will be that very same town, that it will be a better place to come to."

–On the tarmac at the New Orleans airport, Sept. 2, 2005

"It's totally wiped out. ... It's devastating, it's got to be doubly devastating on the ground."

–Turning to his aides while surveying Hurricane Katrina flood damage from Air Force One, Aug. 31, 2005.

"You know I talked to Haley Barbour, the governor of Mississippi yesterday because some people were saying, 'Well, if you hadn't sent your National Guard to Iraq, we here in Mississippi would be better off.' He told me 'I've been out in the field every single day, hour, for four days and no one, not one single mention of the word Iraq.' Now where does that come from? Where does that story come from if the governor is not picking up one word about it? I don't know. I can use my imagination."

—Interview with CNN’s Larry King, Sept. 5, 2005

"Bureaucracy is not going to stand in the way of getting the job done for the people."

—Sept. 6, 2005

FEMA Director Michael Brown

"Considering the dire circumstances that we have in New Orleans, virtually a city that has been destroyed, things are going relatively well."

—Sept. 1, 2005

"FEMA is not going to hesitate at all in this storm. We are not going to sit back and make this a bureaucratic process. We are going to move fast, we are going to move quick, and we are going to do whatever it takes to help disaster victims."

—Aug. 28, 2005

"We just learned of the convention center — we being the federal government — today."

—to ABC's Ted Koppel, Sept. 1, 2005, to which Koppel responded: "Don't you guys watch television? Don't you guys listen to the radio? Our reporters have been reporting on it for more than just today." 

"If you'll look at my lovely FEMA attire you'll really vomit. I am a fashion god ... Anything specific I need to do or tweak? Do you know of anyone who dog-sits? ... Can I quit now? Can I come home? ... I'm trapped now, please rescue me."

—In various emails to colleagues and friends in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina

"I've had no reports of unrest, if the connotation of the word 'unrest' means that people are beginning to riot or, you know, they’re banging on walls and screaming and hollering or burning tires or whatever. I've had no reports of that."

—Sept. 1, 2005

"I don't make judgments about why people chose not to leave but, you know, there was a mandatory evacuation of New Orleans."

–Arguing that the victims bear some responsibility, CNN interview, Sept. 1, 2005

"Our Nation is prepared, as never before, to deal quickly and capably with the consequences of disasters and other domestic incidents."

—March 9, 2005

"Outstanding Political Science Professor, Central State University"

—Description on FEMA director Michael Brown's resume, which turned out to be false — he was only a student there

"I'm going to go home and walk my dog and hug my wife, and maybe get a good Mexican meal and a stiff margarita and a full night's sleep."

—On his plans after being relieved from his role managing Hurricane Katrina relief efforts, Sept. 9, 2005

Former First Lady Barbara Bush

"What I'm hearing which is sort of scary is that they all want to stay in Texas. Everybody is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway so this (chuckle) -- this is working very well for them."

—On the hurricane evacuees at the Astrodome in Houston, Sept. 5, 2005

"But I really didn't hear that at all today. People came up to me all day long and said 'God bless your son,' people of different races and it was very, very moving and touching, and they felt like when he flew over that it made all the difference in their lives, so I just don't hear that."

—To CNN's Larry King, after King asked her how she felt when people said that her son "doesn't care" about Black people, Sept. 5, 2005

Majority Leader Tom Delay

"Now tell me the truth boys, is this kind of fun?"

—House Majority Leader Tom Delay (R-TX), to three young hurricane evacuees from New Orleans at the Astrodome in Houston, Sept. 9, 2005

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin (2002-2010)

"We ask Black people: it's time. It's time for us to come together. It's time for us to rebuild a New Orleans, the one that should be a chocolate New Orleans. And I don't care what people are saying Uptown or wherever they are. This city will be chocolate at the end of the day."

—Jan. 16, 2006

"You know, Tim, that's one of the things that will be debated."

—After being asked by the late NBC anchor Tim Russert why he didn't use buses to evacuate residents in accordance with the city's evacuation plan 

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff

"Well, I think if you look at what actually happened, I remember on Tuesday morning picking up newspapers and I saw headlines, 'New Orleans Dodged the Bullet.' Because if you recall, the storm moved to the east and then continued on and appeared to pass with considerable damage but nothing worse."

—Blaming media coverage for the government's failings, "Meet the Press," Sept. 4, 2005

"I have not heard a report of thousands of people in the convention center who don't have food and water."​

—On NPR's "All Things Considered," Sept. 1, 2005

"Louisiana is a city that is largely under water."

—News conference, Sept. 3, 2005

Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA)

"I mean, you have people who don't heed those warnings and then put people at risk as a result of not heeding those warnings. There may be a need to look at tougher penalties on those who decide to ride it out and understand that there are consequences to not leaving."

—Sept. 6, 2005

CNN's Wolf Blitzer

"You simply get chills every time you see these poor individuals...many of these people, almost all of them that we see are so poor and they are so Black, and this is going to raise lots of questions for people who are watching this story unfold."

—On New Orleans' hurricane evacuees, Sept. 1, 2005

Vice-President Dick Cheney

"There are a lot of lessons we want to learn out of this process in terms of what works. I think we are in fact on our way to getting on top of the whole Katrina exercise."

—Sept. 10, 2005 

Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA)

"Mayor Nagin and most mayors in this country have a hard time getting their people to work on a sunny day, let alone getting them out of the city in front of a hurricane."

—On why New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin failed to follow the city's evacuation plan and press the buses into service, "Fox News Sunday," Sept. 11, 2005

"If one person criticizes [the local authorities’ relief efforts] or says one more thing, including the president of the United States, he will hear from me. One more word about it after this show airs, and I…I might likely have to punch him, literally."

—"This Week with George Stephanopoulos," Sept. 4, 2005

Rep. Richard Baker (R-LA)

"We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn't do it, but God did."

–To lobbyists, as quoted in The Wall Street Journal

MSNBC's Chris Matthews

"Last night, we showed you the full force of a superpower government going to the rescue."

—Sept. 1, 2005

First Lady Laura Bush

"I also want to encourage anybody who was affected by Hurricane Corina to make sure their children are in school."

—Twice referring to a "Hurricane Corina" while speaking to children and parents in South Haven, Mississippi, Sept. 8, 2005

Yahoo News

"A young [Black] man walks through chest deep floodwater after looting a grocery store in New Orleans..."
"Two [white] residents wade through chest-deep water after finding bread and soda from a local grocery store after Hurricane Katrina came through the area in New Orleans..."

—captions at Yahoo News, Aug. 30, 2005

House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.)

"It makes no sense to spend billions of dollars to rebuild a city that's seven feet under sea level....It looks like a lot of that place could be bulldozed."

—Aug. 31, 2005

Evangelist Pat Robertson

"Judge Roberts can, maybe, you know, be thankful that a tragedy has brought him some good."​

—Arguing that then-Supreme Court nominee John Roberts stands to benefit from Hurricane Katrina because "inflamed rhetoric in the United States Senate is just not going to play well now," Sept. 1, 2005 

GOP Strategist Jack Burkman

"I understand there are 10,000 people dead. It's terrible. It's tragic. But in a democracy of 300 million people, over years and years and years, these things happen."

—On MSNBC's "Connected," Sept. 7, 2005 

Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska)

"This is the largest disaster in the history of the United States, over an area twice the size of Europe. People have to understand this is a big, big problem.''

—Sept. 6, 2005

Senator David Vitter (R-LA)

"I don't want to alarm everybody that, you know, New Orleans is filling up like a bowl. That's just not happening."

—In a press briefing from Baton Rouge, Aug. 30, 2005

CNN's Kyra Phillips

"And in all fairness to the Department of Homeland Security right now, I mean this is a brand new Department that was formed after 9/11. In many ways this is a 'learn by our mistakes and figure out what to do better' type of scenario."

—Sept. 9, 2005

Press Corps

"Louisiana's Senator Landrieu announced on network television, 'I might likely have to punch him, literally.' And my question, since 'him' is the President, and both punching and threatening to punch the President is a felony, has her qualifying words 'might likely' saved her from arrest and prosecution?"

—Unknown reporter to White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan, Sept. 6, 2005

"As of Saturday (Sept. 3), Blanco still had not declared a state of emergency, the senior Bush official said."

—Washington Post staff writers Manuel Roig-Franzia and Spencer Hsu, who didn't bother to fact-check the blatant lie peddled by the Bush administration as part of its attempts to pin blame on state and local officials, when, in fact, the emergency declaration had been made on Friday, Aug. 26 

"Just to get you on the record, where does the buck stop in this administration?" –White House reporter
"The President." –White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan

—Sept. 6, 2005 


"White House Got Early Warning on Katrina". The Washington Post, January 24, 2006

"President Bush Hits the Scene, Giving Hope to... Uh, Trent Lott". HuffingtonPost.com, September 2, 2005

"Dems Assail Bush as Another $52B Sought for Katrina Aid". USA Today, September 7, 2005

"Barbara Bush Calls Evacuees Better Off". The New York Times, September 7, 2005

"FEMA chief: Victims bear some responsibility" CNN.com, September 1, 2005

"Some GOP Legislators Hit Jarring Notes in Addressing Katrina". The Washington Post, September 10, 2005

"Meet the Press" transcript, September 4, 2005

"Ted Koppel Rips, Rips RIPS Michael Brown of FEMA on 'Nightline'". Americablog.com

"FEMA director in March: We are prepared, as never before, to deal quickly and competently with disasters" Rawstory.com, September 7, 2005

"Embattled official stripped of duties in Katrina response". Sfgate.com, September 10, 2005

"Bush's Remarks in New Orleans" The New York Times, September 2. 2005

"Strain of Iraq War Means the Relief Burden Will Have to Be Shared " WashingtonPost.com, August 31, 2005

CNN "Larry King Live" transcript, September 5. 2005

"Meet the Press" transcript, September 11, 2005

"Hastert Tries Damage Control After Remarks Hit a Nerve", Washington Post, September 3. 2005

Media Matters for America. September 6, 2005

DailyKos.com, September 6, 2005

AMERICAblog, September 9, 2005

Media Matters for America.