NBC Blows Past Insurance Company Viewpoint on Katrina Damages
Noting the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrinaâ€™s formation in the Atlantic Ocean, anchor Brian Williams promised his audience a look at â€śa sore spot for many homeowners, insurance.â€ť
Yet correspondent Ron Mott gave virtually no time in his story for insurance companiesâ€™ point of view, and left out that a woman he featured complaining about State Farm Insurance is a trial lawyer who regularly sues insurance companies.
Mott began his August 24 story reminding viewers that homeowners Paul and Julie Leonard lost a court case trying to get their insurance company to cover flood damage from Hurricane Katrina. â€śThe judge said their homeowners insurance did not cover flood damage,â€ť he reported, before adding that â€śthe ruling wasnâ€™t a total victory for insurers. It found them still responsible for wind damages, even if they occurred at the same time as flooding.â€ť
The NBC correspondent later introduced another angry homeowner, Judy Guice. â€śState Farm needs to pay,â€ť she insisted to Mott, who described her as a Biloxi attorney who â€śhad flood coverage and got the maximum $250,000, but wants her insurance company to pay for wind damages too.â€ť
But Guice (rhymes with â€śiceâ€ť) is not just another Gulf Coast homeowner with a law degree. According to her Web site, sheâ€™s a former president for the Mississippi Trial Lawyers Association and specializes in personal injury and insurance cases. Whatâ€™s more, according to the Federal Election Commission, Guice is a donor to the One America Committee (OAC), the liberal PAC started by trial lawyer and former Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards.
Following Guiceâ€™s comment, Mott gave insurance companies a few seconds of time as he read briefly from a State Farm press statement. No insurance industry spokesmen were brought on to explain that homeowners insurance policies didnâ€™t include flood damage.
NBC could have found such a point of view in Julie Rochman, who, like Guice, once lost property to hurricane damage. Rochman was featured in a recent Business & Media Institute (BMI) story and is senior vice president for public affairs with the American Insurance Association. Rochman told BMI that recent media coverage has shown a lack of knowledge on how insurance pools work, particularly with recent reports on â€śrecord profitsâ€ť for the industry.
â€śLast year in Mississippi and Louisiana, the insurance industry paid out the equivalent of about 20 yearsâ€™ worth of profits for those states,â€ť Rochman said, adding that the media focus on the small percentage of claims in litigation, but never report on the 90 percent of cases from Katrina already processed.
â€śThe villain is called Hurricane Katrina,â€ť Rochman told BMI. â€śThe villain is not the insurance industry.â€ť But â€śMother Nature rarely does interviews.â€ť