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Emotions are running high in the aftermath of catastrophic Hurricane Katrina, not only among the survivors, but also among the media covering the New Orleans Convention Center, considered ground zero for post-storm squalor and mayhem.
Fox News reporter Geraldo Rivera was filled with tears in his eyes and his voice fluttered with sorrow as he made an on-air plea to authorities to allow the estimated 30,000 storm victims at the center to be allowed to move to a safer, cleaner area.
“Let them walk out of here, let them walk the hell out of here!” Rivera sobbed. “Walk to some other town. Walk someplace where you can help ’em. … These people in the same clothes, where do you think they go to the bathroom? They don’t wash their hands, they don’t wash their face, these babies. What the hell?”
Rivera made his intense plea on Fox’s “Hannity & Colmes” program, at one point holding a young child in his arms on camera.
“There are so many babies here,” Rivera said. “Take a look, I want everyone in the world to see. … Look in the face of the baby. …
People [are] suffering, let them go! … Let them walk over this damn interstate and let them out of here!”
In the same program from another location, Fox’s Shepard Smith explained in a excited negative tone that authorities were preventing survivors from leaving the area.
“[Authorities] have set up a checkpoint at the bottom of this bridge,” Smith said, noting the structure was the gateway to other parishes where the quality of life was better. “Anyone who walks up out of that city is turned around.”
Smith summed up in an urgent tone the thoughts of the survivors seeking to leave the convention center, exclaiming, “Over there, there’s hope, over there, there’s electricity, over there, there’s food and water. But you cannot go from there to there. The government will not allow you to do it. It’s a fact.”
The convention center has become a symbol of the plight of survivors in the Big Easy.
Trash and human waste have been piling up inside since Monday when residents sought shelter from Katrina, and with armed gangs terrorizing nearby streets, even local police have avoided the area.
“People have been raped and murdered in here,” Darlene Joseph, the mother of a 4-year-old boy told USA Today. “There are bodies in the kitchen, babies [teenagers] who had their throats slashed. One is in the cooler.”
Earlier in the evening, during an interview with Fox’s Bill O’Reilly, Rivera was worried about the potential for even more violence at the center which he termed “hell on Earth,” saying the situation was “going to blow” when darkness arrived.
“You should see it, [Geraldo is] running around like a chicken with his head cut off,” said one Fox watcher in Kirkland, Wash. “Fox News needs to pull his reports now! The man is trying to start a riot. I have never seen anything so irresponsible.”
“I turned it off. It was ridiculous,” said another viewer. “The people there seemed well-mannered, particularly considering the length of their ordeal. But Geraldo seemed like he needed a slap across the chin like a frightened heroine in an old-time western. Get a grip Geraldo. If you want to play in the adult world, act like an adult.”
But another in an online messageboard defended Rivera’s emotion in his reporting, stating, “It is that bad there and it is being glossed over. … We are not as excited as we should be about this travesty occurring in our own country. Why is that? Why are the cable news networks showing commercials? They went at least a week without them and went round-the-clock after 9-11. This is far worse!”
As WorldNetDaily exclusively reported, tensions were running high in on-air coverage even before Katrina’s impact.
During the hurricane’s approach to Louisiana, as people were holed up playing video-gambling machines in hotels on Bourbon Street, Shepard Smith asked a man what he was doing inside the Royal Sonesta Hotel.
The man responded, “None of your f—ing business.”
Smith, who anchors cable TV’s top-rated evening newscast, noted that was a good answer, having been broadcast on international television, and then added, “It’s none of my business, which it really isn’t.”