Obama exaggerates impact of 2006 Hawaii quake to make a point but Fox implies quake never happened
We’ve heard a lot about climate change deniers — but Fox News and conservative bloggers may now have become earthquake deniers in an attempt to prove that President Obama is just “making up stuff” to argue for health care reform.
In an interview Wednesday on Fox News, Obama insisted that a provision in the health care reform bill which would provide additional Medicaid funding to states suffering from the aftermath of a major disaster was not designed merely to win over the support of Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana but “also affects Hawaii, which went through an earthquake. … So that’s not just a Louisiana provision. That is a provision that affects every state that is going through a natural catastrophe.”
Conservative blogger Gateway Pundit immediately leaped on this remark, declaring, “Either Obama’s completely making up stuff now or we all missed some horrible devastating earthquake in Hawaii …”
“In 1868 there was a major earthquake in Hawaii that killed 77 people,” he added. “In 1975 an earthquake in Hawaii killed 2 people.”
The assumption that Obama had invented an earthquake out of thin air was quickly picked up by other conservative blogs and also by Fox News, where Steve Doocy gleefully ran a clip of Obama’s remarks and then exclaimed, “Hold it! What Hawaiian earthquake?”
The liberal bloggers at Media Matters, however, were quick to point out that there had been a magnitude 6.7 earthquake in Hawaii in October 2006, in response to which then-President George Bush declared the state a major disaster area.
So score Obama 1, Fox News 0? Perhaps not. It seems that Fox and Gateway Pundit were wrong in completely overlooking a significant earthquake, but President Obama may also have erred in claiming that the narrowly-drawn provision inserted last fall specifically to win over Landrieu’s vote could apply to any other state.
This is where the argument gets technical, but a fact-checker at the Verum Serum blog concludes that “the President should be in a position to know whether this is true, but in looking at the relevant text of the Senate bill, and the facts surrounding the earthquake in question, I’m not so sure this is the case.”
“I was actually in Honolulu at the time,” blogger Morgen Richmond writes, “and fortunately there was no loss of life or even major injuries. However, there was some relatively significant damage to roads and structures.”
Richmond goes on, though, to point out that the language in the current health care reform bill would apply only to a state where “during the preceding 7 fiscal years, the President has declared a major disaster” as a result of which “every county or parish in the State warrant individual and public assistance or public assistance from the Federal Government.”
Hawaii, it seems, consists of five counties, one of which has only 117 residents and was not included in the 2006 disaster relief declaration, while a second was only designated as eligible for limited assistance.
“So given all available facts it sure looks to me like the President’s assertion on Fox News was not true, and that Louisiana remains the only state eligible for this payoff,” Richmond concludes. “Either that or the bill is about to get even more expensive in adding not only Hawaii to the mix, but Mississippi as well.”
This video is from Fox News’ Fox & Friends, broadcast March 18, 2010.