Well, it just gets better and better. As you know, we’ve been tracking the debunking of Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s tall tale about being right there on the front lines fighting government bureaucracy with Sheriff Harry Lee while the boat rescues were still taking place in the aftermath of Katrina. Well, today, the New Orleans Times-Picayune has a gentle but pretty clear run-down of what happened.
In so many words, in Jindal’s speech Tuesday night he said he was there and part of the story as it unfolded — Sheriff Lee was trying to mobilize civilian boats for roof-rescues and government bureaucrats wouldn’t let them head out without proof of insurance and registration. Lee put his foot down and dared the bureaucrats to come arrest him. And when Jindal put his foot down too Lee said they should come arrest Jindal too.
Only, Jindal’s staff now admits that that actually didn’t happen. Instead of being there and being part of the story, Jindal’s reps now admit that days later Jindal overheard Lee telling the story to someone else. And Jindal retold the story he’d been told while inserting himself into it as part of the story.
It’s not really any different from a lot of tall tales we’ve probably all heard at one point or another when someone takes a fun story they’ve heard and retells it making themselves one of the central characters.
Now, Jindal’s reps are still in high dudgeon over this, saying Jindal was totally on the level, claiming some mix of it not making any difference whether Jindal made up his role in the story or not or that what Jindal actually said was never meant to imply that he was part of the story rather than someone who heard about it later. But that’s pretty preposterous if you look at what Jindal actually said.
But now there’s this. TPM Reader EA just flagged this youtube video that appears to show Jindal telling the same story last year, only with even more embroidery about his own part in the drama ..
It’s hardly a capital offense. Jindal’s not the first gubernatorial fibber or pol with a fish story. But, c’mon, even more in this earlier version, it’s clear he made up a version of the story where he was in it.
Late Update: A little addenda on this sorry tale. The good governor’s defenders have been going like gangbusters over this video that Jindal’s office released. It’s from a political rally in 2007, a few months before Sheriff Lee died. He’s praising and endorsing Jindal and in the course of his comments he says, “That when Hurricane Katrina … the day after, Bobby was in my office saying, what do you need?” So Lee said that Jindal was in his office “the day after.” Now, you could go back and forth about just what that meant or observe ungenerously that Lee was talking up Jindal at a political rally. But there’s no getting around the fact that on its own, this is a strong piece of evidence in Jindal’s favor.
Unfortunately for Jindal, though, it’s not on its own. And this is where the story gets a little funny. Before Camp Jindal found the video, they admitted that rather than being there during the incident, as he claimed, Jindal had only heard about it later. (You can actually see the progression of the spinning in Ben Smith’s real-time blogging of their evolving claims.) The lack of press reports that he was there at the time was one (though not the only) reason that we and others were suspicious. And it’s pretty obvious that if Jindal’s crew had found this tape earlier they would have felt that they were on strong enough ground that they didn’t have to admit anything. But once they admitted that Jindal hadn’t been there during the incident in question but only heard it later and then cooked up his own fictionalized account with himself in it, it really doesn’t matter whether Lee or a hundred other people say he was on the scene a day after Katrina or doing scuba rescues or tucking Lee into bed or anything else. All of which proves once again that if you’re a politician who’s going to make stuff up you really need to invest in some quality press representation. Because otherwise you can end up in an epic goof like this where a better press secretary probably could have kept the fib under wraps rather than becoming the fact witness against you. Oh well …
Still Jindalriffic Update: Here’s a post with a trajectory of Jindal’s evolving story. It’s a good list, though it doesn’t seem to include the version included in the video above.
Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.