As some of you may already be aware, rookie Congressman Joseph Cao organized a roundtable panel of local, state, and federal officials at Charity Hospital this past Monday.
An initial report in the Times-Picayune announcing the event described it as "an on-site roundtable discussion of the state of recovery of health care facilities in the 2nd Congressional District," but when the official media advisory left the Congressman's office a few days later, the roundtable was billed as "concerning government reconstruction efforts post Hurricanes Katrina and Rita." There was not one mention of Charity Hospital in the press release except as the location of the event. Instead, the talk centered on "the current status of the public assistance backlogs" more generally, and not on the Charity Hospital issue.
Thus, the first sentence of WWLTV's report on the proceedings reads as follows:
A congressional field hearing inside Charity Hospital turned into less of a tour than expected of the shuttered complex, and more of a call for FEMA to resolve disputes over claims from Hurricane Katrina.
Present elected officials included Reps. Joe Cao and Steve Scalise and City Councilors Stacy Head, Cynthia Hedge-Morrell, Arnie Fielkow, and Jackie Clarkson. They all seemed to parse their words very carefully when discussing the extent of the damages Charity Hospital sustained during Hurricane Katrina or when describing whether that money would be used for the proposed LSU/VA complex or for a renewed Charity Hospital.
Only Paul Rainwater, Governor Jindal's appointee to head the Louisiana Recovery Authority, was willing to unequivocally reiterate the state's anti-Charity position.
Instead, elected officials explained their efforts on the hospital issue as a means to maximize FEMA's reimbursement offer in order to bring as much money as possible into the state.
Even Congressman Cao appeared to temper his position on the hospital issue after going to great lengths to inaccureately assert to President Obama in a letter that that hospital was "completey destroyed by Hurricane Katrina." SaveCharityHospital.com spoke to the Congressman about that letter after the roundtable:
The Congressman seems to think we're playing semantics by pointing out that the evidence he cited to the President is inaccurate.
Yet, it is notable that when Cao attempted to stand by his letter to the President, he ducked around his own words. He announced, "I stand by my statement that the structure was more than 50% damaged" even though his actual letter to President Obama, which was repeated in the question, stated that Charity was "completely destroyed."
Moments earlier, Cao was even more cautious when addressing the condition of Charity under questioning from WWLTV's Dennis Woltering. Again, that interview can be seen at the end of this report.
Cao: Obviously this structure sustained a tremendedous amount of damage -
Woltering: Does it look like more than 50% damage to you?
Cao: Well, based on what I have seen so far here on the first floor - I was not able to go up to the top floors - but based on what I have seen here, I believe at least the first floor is more than 50% damaged.
So Cao sees only the first floor and determines that not only is the entire structure more than 50% damaged but that he's confident enough in his own cursory eyeball assessment, that he writes the President to exclaim that the structure was "completely destroyed?" Had he even seen the first floor before he wrote the President?
Has he seen these photographs showing a clean and decontaminated Charity Hospital taken just before LSU illegally closed the hospital without Legislative approval?