Fox News host Sean Hannity blames Democratic Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner for the deaths, injuries and need for rescues in the Texas city. Hannity inspired a flood of accusations on social media from people who aren't familiar with Houston or disaster coordination and relief.
During Hannity's radio show Monday, he alleged that Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX) begged Turner to evacuate but that the mayor refused.
In fact, Turner told reporters Sunday during a press conference that an evacuation would have led to a far worse disasters for area residents.
"If you think the situation right now is bad, you give an order to evacuate, you are creating a nightmare. Especially when it's not planned," Turner told reporters.
The same happened in 2005 when the mayor told people to evacuate for Hurricane Rita. Highways out of the city were at a stand-still as the storm made landfall.
People wondering why no evacuation order. This is largely why. Hurricane Rita 2005. Dozens died IN this traffic… https://t.co/sa0ULrzNrx— stephanie gosk (@stephanie gosk)1503863412.0
As Mark Elliott notes, the flooding of the highways was well over the height of the cars. With that flooding, everyone would have drowned in their cars.
Imagine Houston's death toll w an evacuation order. On left, Hurricane Rita 2005 On right, Interstate 10 yesterday https://t.co/yArF65VBf2— Mark Elliott (@Mark Elliott)1503931039.0
As a city with 2.3 million people, the mayor explained it simply wasn't feasible and that officials heeded the mistakes made in 2005.
Hannity then criticized the mayor for not answering the phone when Abbott called him.
"I don't get gambling with other people's lives here," Hannity said.
In a Wall Street Journal interview, George W. Bush's former acting FEMA director (after Katrina) explained that the decision whether or not to evacuate is one of the hardest for anyone to make.
During Katrina, Paulson said that FEMA told mayor Ray Nagin to evacuate New Orleans and was bewildered that he did not. However, the path was clear for Katrina and with Harvey, no one had any idea which path the storm was going to take.
“Its tough to evacuate a big city like that,” he said. “I’m reluctant to second guess anyone at this point.”
A New York Times story added that with suburbs and outlying areas, the population is as much as eight million people. Statistics reveal that 66 percent of the people who die in floods do so in their cars.
During the Rita disaster, 24 elderly people from a nursing home trying to evacuate were killed in a crash on Highway 45. More than 100 people died, where the current death toll of this storm is 9 people covering a much larger area than simply Houston.
“Though criticized from afar, the decision was praised by many Houston officials and residents who remember the disaster that unfolded before Hurricane Rita in October 2005," The Times reported.
Hannity cited Abbott, who advised people to "strongly consider evacuating," but also came up short superseding the municipal government and ordering his own evacuation demand.
"It's very frustrating to tell people, 'don't get on the road. Just don't get on the road,'" Hannity told his listeners. He told a story of a man who didn't get on the road until it was too late, despite cautions against it. Hannity said that the result is that rescues are then required for people in their cars who left too late. "You had enough lead time that that wasn't necessary. Alright, how much worse is this going to get?"
The Republican opponent to Turner during the 2015 election, Bill King, also agreed with the decision, praising the mayor, specifically citing Hurricane Rita.
“It was a nightmare,” he said. “On a normal day, our roadways are not designed to handle that many people moving in one direction. Gas stations don’t keep that much of an inventory of gas on hand. Some cars are going to be old and break down. And usually when this happens, it’s hot as hell in Houston. You put people not in good health in that situation, it’s a recipe for disaster.”
Still, Hannity, maintains he knows best.
Listen to his commentary below at the 13:07 mark: