‘Times-Picayune’ Editor Says President Bush Bears Ultimate Blame for Weak Response to Hurricane Disaster

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By: E&P Staff

While the angry barbs and finger pointing continue to assign blame for the horrendously poor response to the Gulf Coast hurricane catastrophe, Jim Amoss, the editor of The Times-Picayune in New Orleans — now publishing out of Houma, La. — is mincing no words.

The feeble response, he says in an interview, is ?ultimately his failure, and it is a colossal one that may have cost lives.?

On Sunday, an angry Times-Picayune published an “open letter” to the president — which E&P was first to reprint on this site that morning, drawing wide national attention to it. Since then it has been republished by the Seattle Times and on CNN.com, read in full on MSNBC, and quoted in hundreds of other newspapers. Among other things, it called for the firing of Michael Brown, head of FEMA, and other top officials involved in fumbling the crisis.

Now Editor Amoss, in an interview with The Oregonian in Portland, has explained why the paper wrote it: “We needed to address the president directly …. We felt that this is ultimately his failure, and it is a colossal one that may have cost lives, and certainly much physical damage to our community.”

Why the open letter format? Amoss said the editorial staff thought it needed to present a more direct tone about the federal failures than it could in a conventional editorial.

The newspaper made no endorsement for president in 2004, as it was unhappy with both candidates. Amoss has been editor since 1990.

He pulled no punches in the interview in addressing FEMA officials: “It’s a preposterous notion, that they couldn’t get in here and their hands were tied. If any of us had experienced anything like that [level of failure] in our own companies, it would mean instant termination. The government ought to be held accountable in the same way.”

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