Newkirk II: Was this just a misunderstanding, or was it indicative of FEMA just not necessarily having an understanding of what was happening?
Honoré: I think it’s a combination of the above. So I gotta position myself where I could do my command and control. And get my mission done. There was a lot we didn’t know.
Newkirk II: Do you feel like a lot of your job was, like, counteracting both rumors and media reports?
Honoré: I get a call [one night]. It’s right before dark. The police chief had gone on television and said there were snipers. The White House chief of staff calls my phone number, says, “Hey, the boss wants to know are there snipers in New Orleans, because if snipers are there, we gonna send federal troops in tonight. We’ve got a brigade of the 82nd ready to go. Special Ops troops.”
I said, “You gotta be shitting me.” On the way over, I see that the governor is telling them, “Hey, we come into the Superdome and convention center. We’re gonna get everybody out, and we want to shoot to kill if we see anybody looting.” Where did this come from? So I call back down to the governor’s office. I said, “Hey, tell the governor don’t tell the troops to shoot to kill.” ’Cause these are National Guard troops, not federal troops yet. “Don’t ever tell law enforcement to shoot to kill your own people.” Why are we putting this message out there? And then on top of that, the police chief is saying he went up in a helicopter and a sniper shot him.
So I go see the police chief. Because the message from the White House was: I need you to go verify this. I said, “Chief [Eddie] Compass, where did you get this idea there were snipers? That’s a significant word, to say ‘snipers.’” I say, “Oh, by the way, did they hit you?” “Well, no.” “Did they hit the helicopter?” “No.” “Well, they probably weren’t fucking snipers, were they?” Chief says, “Maybe I used the wrong word.” I said, “No shit, you used the wrong word.” We’re going to snipers, now we’re going to a case of civil unrest. And the president can assume control of all of this area now, because we’ve lost civil control. It’s not Posse Comitatus; it’s the Insurrection Act. The police chief says, “Well, yeah, maybe that was a bad word.” I said, “No fuck, chief. That was a bad word.”
Newkirk II: So it seems like one of the things you were really focused on doing was making sure that keeping the idea that the mission, this was humanitarian.
Honoré: Right. And that’s the next day, when we got the call to put the guns down. That happened on the following morning. Because, you see, this thing had been building about looting and about “The city’s out of control.” You got a bunch of reporters still pissing New York beer just showing up; they ain’t corroborating shit. Then somebody goes straight to national television.
Newkirk II: Can you just walk me through the actual order of events of the evacuation? The last phase of the evacuation from the convention center and Superdome.