a citizen’s journal by Thomas Nephew

German TV: Photo op rescue/relief work in Biloxi

Posted by Thomas Nephew on September 4th, 2005

Laura Rozen (“War and Piece”) posts this comment by a reader about German TV network’s coverage of the event Senator Landrieu is complaining about:

ZDF News reported that the president’s visit was a completely staged event. Their crew witnessed how the open air food distribution point Bush visited in front of the cameras was torn down immediately after the president and the herd of ‘news people’ had left and that others which were allegedly being set up were abandoned at the same time.

The people in the area were once again left to fend for themselves, said ZDF.

(via Kevin Drum) This apparently wasn’t the only “Potemkin” rescue effort noted by ZDF. Asked about residents’ reactions to Bush’s visit to Biloxi, Mississippi — characterized as a “Stippvisite” (perfunctory visit) by the moderator — German ZDF-TV reporter Claudia Rueggeberg said they differed; while one resident said that one such symbolic visit was better than nothing, but that another became very angry and said, “such a staged visit didn’t help.” The reporter continued:

Indeed, this morning there were suddenly rescue teams [Hilfstrupps], people who cleared debris and looked for corpses in the houses, but only along the route of the president. About two hours ago, the president left Biloxi again — and with him, all the rescue teams.*

I’ve also found another ZDF clip** referring to Bush speaking with “surprisingly calm victims,” and viewing a “hastily set up aid station.”

* Her part of the clip begins at about 3:00 minutes.
** Beginning at about minute 4:50.
UPDATE, 9/4: Rozen readers FD and DZ point to the same clip I found; also, she writes that a Daily Kos reader notes a similar clip about Biloxi at ARD, another German TV network. Thus, neither that post or this one specifically confirm her first reader’s “fake open air food distribution” story yet, but both point to a similar one.
NOTE, 9/4: The literal translation for “Hilfstrupps” is “help troops”; I chose the phrase “rescue team.”
UPDATE, 9/6: The translation of Christine Adelhardt’s Biloxi report on ARD by dKos reader ‘vanguardia’ is basically accurate. The “press baggage” translation for “Pressetross” looks odd, but the word “Tross” translates to “baggage”– in a military sense, where it means the supply train and whores accompanying an army. “Press entourage” would be the usual English phrase, but reviving this particular usage of “baggage” does not seem so far off the mark.

UPDATE, 9/7: I largely agree with this analysis by Rivka (“Respectful of Otters”) which is crossposted at her “Idealistic Pragmatist” colleague’s blog: the original claim hasn’t panned out yet, and Laura Rozen’s Dutch correspondent, Frank Tiggelaar, may have gotten the Biloxi report and a second one mixed up. I think the best candidate for what Mr. Tiggelaar saw is the second ZDF clipI mention above (“Menschen warten auf Rettung” — “People wait for rescue”), where Bush is said to speak with “surprisingly calm” victims in a “hastily built aid station” (around minute 4:50 of the clip). That does rather imply something fishy is going on without coming right out and saying so; however, no mention is made of tearing down the station immediately after Bush’s departure. It’s possible, though, that Mr. Tiggelar heard a stronger claim made in a different version of this report, or of the particular “aid station” part of that report. I’ve got a query in to ZDF asking whether there is a report precisely like what Mr. Tiggelaar remembered, but have not received an answer.

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