Media Mayhem

This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," September 27, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

JOHN GIBSON, HOST: Sharks swimming in New Orleans (search) business district, rapes and murders at the Superdome, doctors performing euthanasia on their patients: These are just some of the reports, some from officials, which were blown up by the media after Katrina (search) hit and, in some case, have since been called into question.

I'm joined now by Newsday columnist and New Orleans native Ellis Henican, who's also a FOX News political analyst.

So, we have been looking over this. At this point, do we still not know what was true and what wasn't?

ELLIS HENICAN, FOX NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: No. It's very difficult, as you know, to prove a negative. But we know that a lot of things that were said — and you just mentioned three of them right there — the sharks, of course, being my favorite, didn't happen or there is no evidence that they happened or you can't show that they happened.

GIBSON: Does no evidence that something happened mean it didn't happen?

HENICAN: Oh, God. Are we going to have that philosophical conversation?


GIBSON: But once the shark swims away, then people said they saw them.


HENICAN: No, you ask a fair question. Journalistically, you know how hard it is to show something that didn't occur. But why don't we say it carefully this time, as compared to the way a lot of people were saying it over the past few weeks?

There is now not any evidence that many of those things occurred, including the rapes of the babies, the murders in the Superdome, no evidence.

GIBSON: Mayor Ray Nagin (search) said he expected there would be 10,000 dead. What are reporters to do when the mayor says he expects to see 10,000 bodies? Ignore that?

HENICAN: No, one-word answer. Attribute. And the way you protect yourself...

GIBSON: Didn't that happen?

HENICAN: Absolutely.

Listen, the way in our business — and you know this very well...


GIBSON: But, I mean, people attributed that to the mayor, didn't they?

HENICAN: Listen, as a reporter, there is no way not to report a mayor standing up and saying, "We're expecting thousands of dead bodies in our town."

GIBSON: When the police chief, who resigned Tuesday, Eddie Compass (search), when he appeared on "Oprah" and said little babies were getting raped at the Superdome, are reporters not supposed to say, hey, the police chief said this?

HENICAN: No, you did it exactly right. You don't say it's true, but you say the police chief said that. Standard, appropriate journalism.

GIBSON: And when reporters on the scene, and some of our own, who were approached by people in uniform, either cops or National Guards people, who told the reporter, "I saw people getting mugged or hooligans with guns holding them up or raping them" or whatever, what are you supposed to do about it? Are you supposed to not believe them or demand proof?

HENICAN: I'm back to the same lesson. Attribute, but do it skeptically. Go out and gather the information.

What has happened here, John, the fog of war has begun to lift, and we're finding out some of the facts. And many of them, you're absolutely right, overblown, reported rumors, things that were small blown into things that were big. Thankfully, with a little bit of a breath, we're able to nail some of it down.


HENICAN: But there are an awful lot of people wrong.

GIBSON: You're a New Orleans native.

HENICAN: It pained me to hear those stories, hurt me to hear those stories.

GIBSON: And these are your peeps.


GIBSON: Did these things not happen?

HENICAN: Bad things happened.


HENICAN: Some of the worst things that you heard about didn't happen.

GIBSON: How bad were the things that happened?

HENICAN: Well, there was looting in the street. There were people, desperate people, waiting for water.


GIBSON: We know the Wal-Mart gun department got looted.

HENICAN: Right. There are no guns there anymore. Bad stuff happened.

All I'm saying is don't make the leap from bad enough to horror movie. And that's what happened.

GIBSON: But are you saying that your colleagues, some people you know, reporters, were out there misleading the public?

HENICAN: I certainly wouldn't want to think they were doing it purposely. Some of them traded in bad information, though.

GIBSON: Ellis Henican, a FOX News analyst and, of course, a journalist himself, thanks a lot.

HENICAN: Thank you, bud.

Content and Programming Copyright 2005 FOX News Network, L.L.C. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2005 eMediaMillWorks, Inc. (f/k/a Federal Document Clearing House, Inc.), which takes sole responsibility for the accuracy of the transcription. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material except for the user's personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon FOX News Network, L.L.C.'s and eMediaMillWorks, Inc.'s copyrights or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.