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James Hibberd

'This Stuff Affects All Americans'

July 13, 2006 4:07 PM

Director Spike Lee stood on the stage during HBO’s session to answer critics’ questions about his Hurricane Katrina documentary “When the Levees Broke.”

That he was standing was unusual; TCA panelists normally sit in chairs. That Lee ignored his chair and stood seemed like a statement about the importance of the subject matter—or a reflection of Lee’s determination to not be in a passive position while fielding questions.

Lee said the government’s lackluster response to the Katrina devastation of New Orleans could eventually be disastrous for other parts of the country as well. “Volcanoes, hurricanes, tornados, floods—it’s not just New Orleans,” Lee said. “Pray to God you don’t have to depend on FEMA. This stuff affects all Americans … It’s very important that we realize it was not a natural disaster; it was a man made disaster … I think somebody has to go to jail somehow for what was committed down there.”

The documentary will include accusations by New Orleans residents that the government blew up the New Orleans levees, Lee confirmed.

“We felt we had to give credence to the many individuals, the majority of them African American, who think the government had something to do with that,” Lee said. “I know it may be hard for you to understand, but if you’re African American, you don’t put anything past the United States government.”

Lee had praise, however, for the media coverage of the disaster. “For the most part the media should be commended,” he said. “It seemed like a lot of the media felt they had been betrayed with the weapons of mass destruction, so now they could take their gloves off and take their swings.”


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