Although interviewee Harry Connick Jr. was unwilling to cast blame towards any specific person or agenda over the failed response to the Hurricane Katrina in 2005, CNN's Piers Morgan thrice tried to bait him into doing so on Monday.
Connick stated on Piers Morgan Tonight that "at this point, what good is it going to do to blame local or state or federal government?" Yet Morgan emphasized the "scandalously slow" response to the disaster by authorities, and even noted liberal conspiracy claims that "surreptitious racism" was involved.
Morgan referred to President Bush's account of the response in his memoirs thus: "I mean I sort of read it and thought, well, if you're the president of the United States and you've got so many of your people dying in such horrific circumstances, you just throw the rule book out, don't you? You just do what it takes."
Connick wouldn't take the bait to blame Bush, however. "Well, you know, you'd like to think so. But that – it was a traumatic time for everybody," he responded. Later on Morgan peddled the conspiratorial claims that racism was behind the poor response in New Orleans, in an effort to get Connick to respond.
"Some people, you know, said it was kind of surreptitious racism, that it was the fact there were so many poor black people meant that the authorities didn't respond in the way, if they had all been middle class white people," Morgan posed to Connick. The musician dismissed the claims.
"Like, we just need to move forward, you know what I'm saying? People mess up all the time. They messed up then," Connick said of the crisis.
[Video below. Click here  for audio.]
A transcript of the segment, which aired on October 24 at 9:18 p.m. EDT, is as follows:
PIERS MORGAN: And yet the authorities seemed to behave like they were in a third world country. I mean the speed of reaction was scandalously slow. When you look back on it, why do you think that was? Why was it not just obvious there was this awful disaster unfurling?
HARRY CONNICK, JR., entertainer: Well, I'm not privy to all of the details that unfolded and led people to make certain decisions. I do know that we – off the air, we were talking about my manager, Anne Marie Wilkins. I've been with her for a long time. And she said, this is not the time to blame anyone, at least for you, Harry. She said don't blame anyone. Just do what you can. And I realized as time went on, I never did – I didn't need to blame anyone. I mean the problem was there. What do we do to fix it?
And since then, you know, we've established, along with Habitat for Humanity and my dear friend, Branford Marsalis, the Musicians Village and the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music, and all that was done without saying, look what you did, look how you messed up so –
MORGAN: President Bush, in his own memoirs, which I read recently, you know, he does accept criticism for quite a lot of his actions, not least of all looking down from the plane and being photographed looking down, and stuff like that. But he sort of lays a lot of the blame on a more local level, that he was prohibited from sending in the National Guard and stuff.
I mean I sort of read it and thought, well, if you're the president of the United States and you've got so many of your people dying in such horrific circumstances, you just throw the rule book out, don't you? You just do what it takes.
CONNICK: Well, you know, you'd like to think so. But that – it was a traumatic time for everybody. I was down there doing some – the only way I could get down there is Bob Wright, the former president of NBC, was kind enough to get me down on his plane. He said, would you do some correspondence work down there for us to let us know what's going on?
I said, heck, yeah, I'll do whatever it takes as long as you get me down there. And I had a satellite phone. And when I was at the convention center, I stood up on a chair because it wasn't about trying to figure out who did what wrong, I was like, hey, you all need to send some people over here. There's people who haven't had food and water for a number of days.
There were dead bodies there. There were people seizing. There were people without medication, without any kind of plumbing or electricity. No utilities at all. So it wasn't about – it was about people stepping up and doing what they could. I – you know, at this point, what good is it going to do to blame local or state or federal government?
MORGAN: Some people, you know, said it was kind of surreptitious racism, that it was the fact there were so many poor black people meant that the authorities didn't respond in the way, if they had all been middle class white people.
CONNICK: Well, I mean my dad's not poor and black and, you know, he had a hell of a time getting out of New Orleans. My Aunt Jessie and my Uncle John were on their rooftop. And the last time I checked, they were as white as I was. So I don't know – you know what, the really – at this point in my relationship with that event – and this may – this may upset some people to say, but who cares?
Like, we just need to move forward, you know what I'm saying? People mess up all the time. They messed up then. They – whatever. We need – what can we do? All I know is that we built 80 houses and brought a lot of musicians back.