Did Jindal Make Up A Story In That Speech?

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Another unforced error from that widely panned rebuttal.

First, the original story in his own words…

During Katrina, I visited Sheriff Harry Lee, a Democrat and a good friend of mine. When I walked into his makeshift office I’d never seen him so angry. He was yelling into the phone: ‘Well, I’m the Sheriff and if you don’t like it you can come and arrest me!’ I asked him: ‘Sheriff, what’s got you so mad?’ He told me that he had put out a call for volunteers to come with their boats to rescue people who were trapped on their rooftops by the floodwaters. The boats were all lined up ready to go – when some bureaucrat showed up and told them they couldn’t go out on the water unless they had proof of insurance and registration. I told him, ‘Sheriff, that’s ridiculous.’ And before I knew it, he was yelling into the phone: ‘Congressman Jindal is here, and he says you can come and arrest him too!’ Harry just told the boaters to ignore the bureaucrats and start rescuing people.

The problems?

TPM details…

  • First, Jindal’s story has Lee railing against the red-tape in the midst of the crisis. But Lee, the sheriff of Jefferson Parish in suburban New Orleans, told CNN he didn’t find out about the license and registration issue until about seven days after the incident.
  • According to numerous reports, Harry Lee did not leave the affected area of New Orleans during the crisis. But there is no reported evidence of Jindal having set foot in the area during the period when people were still stranded on roofs — which, based on a review of news stories from the time, was only until September 3 at the very latest. Indeed, the evidence strongly suggests he did not…
  • When the storm made landfall on August 29, Jindal was on a foreign trip. His family was evacuated to his parents’ house in Baton Rouge, and when he returned, he went straight there to join them. In a September 1st CNN interview given from Baton Rouge, Jindal talked about taking an aerial tour of the disaster area, but didn’t mention anything about having been on the ground personally. We’ve reviewed Nexis and other sources, and can find no news reports putting Jindal on the ground in the affected area during the few days after Katrina struck when people might still have needed boats to rescue them from rooftops.
  • And in 2008, Jindal told Human Events:
    There are thousands of these stories. I talked to a sheriff in an area where they had people with boats that were ready to go in the water and rescue people and they were turned away because they didn’t have proof of registration and insurance, they didn’t bring the right paperwork. The bureaucracy was just awful.

Basically, the story was powerful enough when told correctly. No need to put himself in the crisis itself to enhance it. In fact, the extra details made it seem more like an episode of Andy Griffith than anything else.

Moving on…