As Hurricane Harvey raged over Texas and coincided with the 12th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, people started throwing around lots of bizarre theories about where Barack Obama was during Hurricane Katrina. Some folks on the internet criticized President Obama’s response to Katrina, saying he was golfing when the storm hit. Except that, when you look at Real News, Obama was neither president nor golfing during Katrina.
In August 2005, Barack Obama was just a senator representing the state of Illinois. At that point, he had started making a name for himself on the national stage. The year before, he gave his noteworthy keynote address at the Democratic National Convention. So Obama was gearing up for a presidential campaign, and to do that he needed to be present and show himself in national situations.
This was likely part of the reasoning behind Obama’s response to Hurricane Katrina. As the hurricane ravaged New Orleans, evacuees were housed at the Houston Astrodome, a big stadium complex. Former Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton went to visit the storm’s refugees in the Astrodome.
Bush and Clinton were joined by another guest, who probably got little notice at the time: Illinois Senator Barack Obama, according to NBC News. Together, Bush, Clinton, and Obama met with Katrina victims and surveyed the facilities. Don’t believe me? Fine, here’s a picture:
What people be thinking of when they talk about Obama golfing during Katrina is actually Obama golfing during floods in Louisiana in 2016, an action for which he faced criticism — including from Donald Trump. Obama did eventually go to Louisiana and meet with victims.
Back in 2005, Obama spoke out quite a bit about the government’s response to Hurricane Katrina, as well as the effects of racism and poverty. Obama told NPR in 2005,
You know, we’d like to think of ourselves as a generous country, as a diverse country, as a country in which all children have opportunity. And I think, unfortunately, Katrina revealed that there’s a gap between the ideal we have as a country and the reality that people are living every day in places like the Ninth Ward of New Orleans.
You can see a quick clip of Obama speaking about what he saw during Katrina on the Senate floor:
In a September 2005 appearance on CBS News’ , Obama again spoke about poverty and Katrina, saying,
I think that what you had in terms of the immediate aftermath of the hurricane displayed an unwillingness to acknowledge that some people can’t load up an SUV, fill it up with a hundred bucks’ worth of gas and drive and check in to a hotel.
Bill Clinton was joined by Hillary Clinton on that Houston visit to Katrina victims in 2005, along with George H.W. Bush and Obama. The Associated Press reported that the Clintons and Obama interacted with refugees, which included Obama picking up a little girl and talking to her about a heart she made at the shelter.
So, where was Obama during Katrina? Comforting victims. That’s a lot more than President Trump can say about Hurricane Harvey.