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.
"It was days later," Sellers said. "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.
Now, here’s what Jindal said:
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.
Okay so let’s envision this. Jindal is saying that days after Katrina hit, he walks into Lee’s office. The Sheriff’s is yelling into the phone, recounting his frustrations to a friend. Jindal overhears this and says "that’s ridiculous," so Lee tells the friend on the phone to come and arrest Jindal. Completely independent of any of this, Lee had told the boaters to ignore the bureaucrats days before. And Jindal never meant to imply that he used his status as a Congressman to heroically intercede on behalf of people in need of rescue against evil bureaucrats indifferent to human suffering. Lee is now conveniently deceased, so nobody can confirm one way or the other.
Ben says "liberal critics" have raised questions with the story. If everyone who has a problem with that story is a liberal, our numbers are bigger than I think.