Louisiana Democratic Party statement on Gov. Jindal’s Katrina/Harry Lee story

February 27, 2009

Louisiana Democratic Party spokesman Scott Jordan has issued the following statement on Gov. Jindal’s Katrina/Harry Lee story from Jindal’s Tuesday night speech:

Gov. Jindal told the story in a way that made it sound like he was assisting Harry Lee in the sheriff’s office as rescue boats were being turned away – which the governor’s office now says wasn’t the case. The first responders’ heroism during Katrina is something that Louisianians hold sacred, and people are upset that Gov. Jindal framed the incident as if he was one of those first responders.

In case you missed it, here’s the background on the Katrina/Harry Lee story told by Jindal, from Politico.com.

A spokeswoman for Bobby Jindal now says the Louisiana governor didn’t intend to imply that an anecdote about battling bureaucrats “during Katrina” actually took place during the heat of the rescue effort or directly involved the governor, then a member of Congress.

The spokeswoman, Melissa Sellers, said the story Jindal told in his response to Obama actually took place some days later in Lee’s office, as Lee was recounting his frustrations with the bureaucracy to someone else on the telephone.

This is how Jindal told the story:

During Katrina, I visited Sheriff Harry Lee, a Democrat and a good friend of mine. When I walked into his makeshift office I’d never seen him so angry. He was yelling into the phone: ‘Well, I’m the Sheriff and if you don’t like it you can come and arrest me!’ I asked him: ‘Sheriff, what’s got you so mad?’ He told me that he had put out a call for volunteers to come with their boats to rescue people who were trapped on their rooftops by the floodwaters. The boats were all lined up ready to go – when some bureaucrat showed up and told them they couldn’t go out on the water unless they had proof of insurance and registration. I told him, ‘Sheriff, that’s ridiculous.’ And before I knew it, he was yelling into the phone: ‘Congressman Jindal is here, and he says you can come and arrest him too!’ Harry just told the boaters to ignore the bureaucrats and start rescuing people.

Jindal spokeswoman Melissa Sellers told politico.com, “It was days later. Sheriff Lee was on the phone and the governor came down to visit him. It wasn’t that they were standing right down there with the boats.”

She said she thought Lee, who died in 2007, “was doing an interview” about the incident with the boats when the governor described him yelling into the phone.

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