Rev. Jackson Defends New Orleans' Mayor

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This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," September 8, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Criticism continues to mount against New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin's (search) response to the threat of Hurricane Katrina (search). Some point to hundreds of empty buses now filled with water as a missed opportunity to bring New Orleans residents to safety.

Joining us now to discuss the situation in New Orleans, the founder and president of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, Reverend Jesse Jackson (search).

Reverend, thank you for coming back on the show.

As I understand it, the minute it was a national emergency, doesn't that become a national issue? And don't you think calling in the cavalry at that point?

REV. JESSE JACKSON, RAINBOW/PUSH COALITION: Well, in some sense you had a three-state crisis. The bigger hit, frankly, was Mississippi. And then Alabama, as well as in Louisiana.

To make a mayor the fall guy, I think, is a misstatement. You had a five-day warning about the storm coming Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday by the meteorologists. And emergency preparedness was not even prepared for the emergency.

So that was no massive plan for rescue and for relocation and for relief and family reunification and reconstruction. That's bigger than a given mayor.

COLMES: And we've seen FEMA (search), time and time again, they didn't led Red Cross in. They didn't let Bill Richardson help. They didn't let the mayor of Chicago help. Supplies were not coming in.

The governor declared a state of emergency August 26 and then the next day gave a detailed plan that was not acted on by the feds. She begged them to declare a state of emergency, as well.

JACKSON: We're trying to see it as a kind of local, and it was, in fact, an imminent threat. President Bush did not come. Vice President Cheney did not come. No cabinet member came.

The Red Cross did not come into the city. They were told it was too dangerous. And so you left these abandoned people without services that they needed as American citizens. And they were not, frankly, well served. I think more probably died from dehydration and starvation than from the flood itself.

COLMES: Was Howard Dean wrong when he said race is a factor, class is a factor, economics a factor? Did they all figure in here?

JACKSON: They raised class and poverty as a fact. Even on dry land, it may have been emphasized here, but I don't think that's the major theme. I think the real theme is that those persons called refugees in fact were citizens, and the citizens were not well served.

And we did not have the infrastructure to protect our people from what was a growing danger. Global warming is real. The levees could, at best, handle a size 3 hurricane. It was a size five. And so we did not have the capacity to protect American citizens because our priorities are different.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST: We had about 1,000 buses that weren't utilized to move the people out. And we had days warnings that this hurricane was coming.

We have now found out and discovered the Red Cross had the food, the supplies and the water right outside the Superdome and convention center and that Louisiana government officials said, "No, you can't come in." They were there from day one.

JACKSON: I talked with Mrs. Evans. She said the homeland security told them not to come in. So the fact is they did not come in.

I recall so quickly when the tsunami hit we dropped bread and water the second day. When 9/11 hit, the president was there with the firemen and police...

HANNITY: Supplies were right there.

JACKSON: But the fact is he did not come to New Orleans. I think that is a factor.

And I came in one day with 10 buses and there were 9,000 people. Across the road were 500 buses. Do you know why they were empty? Because there was no place to take them. There was no plan for relocation.

The reality is, if you had used the military bases in the state like unused, even the Air Force base in Alexandria or other military bases that are unused, I might add and state parks, you could relocate people here and not scatter them all around the nation. There was no massive plan for rescue and for relief.

HANNITY: I could only say it breaks my heart to now know that the food and water was there. It breaks my heart to know that 1,000 buses plus were there, that they weren't used, that the city had been warned for decades about how devastating this would be. Local officials knew and they didn't evacuate.

But I have a question for you. You have come under...

JACKSON: Wait a minute. Mayors do not fix levees. That's what the Corps of Engineers do.

HANNITY: Mayors are supposed to have used buses and evacuate people, and this mayor didn't do it.

JACKSON: But he had no place to relocate them. That becomes a state function.

HANNITY: You leave them in the wake of a hurricane because you don't know the exact location of where the bus is going to go? I'd get them the heck out of town. Get them out of the way.

JACKSON: And land them where? There must be some reception.

HANNITY: Dry land, away from the hurricane.

JACKSON: But then you have to be received on dry land. You have to have a rescue operation, but you must also have a relocation plan.

HANNITY: Within three days of the flood you called the president incompetent. You said, "How can blacks be locked out of the leadership?" Is that what a leader like yourself ought to be saying three days after the flood, that you're bringing up a racial agenda?

JACKSON: No, I didn't say that. As a matter of fact, for all the people that are there on these rooftops reaching out, we didn't reach out to them either because we were uncaring, incompetent or inept, none of which is acceptable.

I submit to you American citizens were not well-served in this crisis. It should be a message, perhaps, for future storms. We should learn something from this for all Americans.

COLMES: Thank you very much, Sir. Thanks for coming on with us tonight.

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