Red Cross Demands Corrections to ‘Misleading’ Coverage

Flag of the Red Cross Suomi: Punaisen Ristin l...

Flag of the Red Cross Suomi: Punaisen Ristin lippu Français : Drapeau de la Croix-Rouge Italiano: Bandiera della Croce Rossa Македонски: Знаме на Црвениот Крст Rumantsch: Bandiera de la Crusch cotschna (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So it seems that Propublica struck a nerve with the Red Cross, especially with its response to Sandy and Isaac , and with misleading fundraising as well.

I’m not overly surprised, in recent times it seems to have become more of a fund-raising organization for the enhancement of the lifestyle of its executives than anything else. That’s sad but hardly unprecedented. I have heard stories going back to Vietnam regarding the uncooperativeness of the red Cross regarding provide authorization of emergency leave for soldiers. Personally I have for many years refused to donate to the Red Cross, preferring such organizations as the Salvation Army.

In any case, here’s the main heads of the controversy.

1. Emergency response vehicles diverted for PR purposes

Red Cross complaint (pg. 1):

The charity takes issue with our reporting that executives diverted vehicles for public relations purposes. In particular, the Red Cross asserts that NPR’s version of the story erroneously refers to multiple “incidents” where 40 percent of available emergency response vehicles were used for press conferences. The Red Cross also says our reporting relied on a “lone source.” It both denies that any emergency vehicles were diverted away from providing relief and says that the 40 percent figure is wrong.

Our response:

The Red Cross’ claim that we referred to multiple “incidents” where 40 percent of vehicles were diverted is based on its use of a misleading, truncated quotation.

NPR’s transcript makes clear the word “incidents” refers to a variety of episodes, not just the diversion of trucks:

Our reporting found incidents where the charity sent as many as 40 percent of its emergency vehicles to press conferences instead of into the field, where it failed to show up as promised to open shelters, allowed sex offenders to hang out in a shelter’s play area. […]

2. Hurricane Isaac volunteers sent where they weren’t needed

Red Cross complaint (pg. 3):

The charity disputes our reporting that the vast majority of Red Cross responders deployed in advance of Hurricane Isaac in 2012 were stationed in Tampa, Florida – site of the Republican National Convention — even after it became clear the storm would not hit there.

“Again, this is the opinion of one Red Cross worker, unsubstantiated by the facts,” the Red Cross writes.

Our response:

While the Red Cross insists Tampa was under threat, the National Hurricane Center disagrees. As of Friday, Aug. 24, 2012, which was five days before landfall, Tampa was not under a hurricane threat or warning.

Five days out “it was clear the center of the storm would pass well to the west of Tampa,” Dennis Feltgen of the National Hurricane Center told us.

During the period that the Red Cross was stationing around 500 people in Tampa, a hurricane watch was under way for Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama. Multiple people, including Red Cross volunteers and staffers, told ProPublica and NPR that the organization had difficulty moving people out of Tampa. […]

3. Failures in Bergen County, New Jersey

Red Cross complaint (pg. 4):

The charity takes issue with our reporting that the Red Cross’ response to Sandy was particularly inadequate in Bergen County, New Jersey. The Red Cross says we ignored “positive comments about the Red Cross while pretending only negative comments exist.”

Our response:

The Red Cross is not disputing the fact at the center of our reference to Bergen County: That the charity did not show up at the county’s Emergency Operations Center. “They were the only major player not there,” police lieutenant and Bergen County Emergency Management Coordinator Matthew Tiedemann told us. […]

4. Questioning the standing of a key source

Red Cross complaint (pg. 5):

The charity says “much of the criticism” in our stories came from one source, whose role we inflated.

Our response:

Again, the central conclusions of our coverage were drawn from the American Red Cross’ own internal high-level assessments, including minutes of a meeting with Red Cross executives in Washington. […]

5. The Red Cross wasted large amounts of food

Red Cross complaint (pg. 6):

The charity says our reference to the Red Cross wasting food was based on a single Red Cross responder, specifically Richard Rieckenberg.

Our response:

Our story noted that Rieckenberg estimated that the Red Cross wasted 30 percent of its food in the early days after Sandy — and we also noted the Red Cross disputed the figure. [..]

Red Cross complaint (pg. 6):

The charity disputes our reporting that the Red Cross sent around empty trucks after Hurricane Isaac just to be seen. In particular, the Red Cross writes, “There is no evidence to support this other than the recollection, again, of Rick Rieckenberg.”

Our response:

The Red Cross is wrong. […]

8. Refusing to work with Occupy Sandy

Red Cross complaint (pg. 8):

The charity denies our reporting that after Sandy Red Cross executives told staffers not to work with the well-regarded group Occupy Sandy out of concern over the connections to the Occupy Wall Street protest movement.

Our response:

Our story about the Red Cross and Occupy Sandy is clear: In the early period after the storm multiple Red Cross workers were told by superiors not to work with Occupy Sandy. […]

9. Senator probes Red Cross finances

Red Cross complaint (pg. 9):

The charity objects to various characterizations of Sen. Charles Grassley’s inquiries into its finances. They call our headline “hyper-extended.”

Our response:

The Red Cross is not alleging a factual error. Following our story on CEO Gail McGovern misstating how donor dollars are spent on services and overhead, Grassley announced: “The public’s expectation for an important, well-known organization like the Red Cross is complete, accurate fundraising and spending information  […]

10. Difficulty of finding sources who praised the Red Cross

Red Cross complaint (pg. 10):

The charity disputes a comment by one of us on a Reddit chat that it was difficult to find sources who had positive things to say about the Red Cross’ response to Isaac and Sandy. The charity also complains that we did not include a survey it provided of those who received Red Cross help after Sandy.

Our response:

Our answer on our Reddit chat was: We “interviewed dozens of people, including many Red Cross officials and volunteers, storm victims, and government officials. It was very difficult to find sources with positive things to say about the Red Cross’ responses to Sandy and Isaac. More importantly, multiple sources confirmed and fleshed out the Red Cross’ own conclusions from its internal assessments.”[…]

There is quite a lot more detail at the sourcelink, here: Red Cross Demands Corrections to Our ‘Misleading’ Coverage. Here’s Our Response – ProPublica.

I’ll simply note that I have always found Pro Publica to be a reliable investigatory organization.

About NEO
Lineman, Electrician, Industrial Control technician, Staking Engineer, Inspector, Quality Assurance Manager, Chief Operations Officer

3 Responses to Red Cross Demands Corrections to ‘Misleading’ Coverage

  1. the unit says:

    I got to give both agencies a thumbs up. No… neither were there immediately after our hurricane. But then there was no where to stay or cook for days, really weeks. We had enough canned goods and water, plus found enough canned goods in the debris to last a while. When they could function, there was a lady from Illinois and Red Cross who brought us a meal each day while we tried to get on. No power at our place from August 29 ’til January. There was lots of neighbor helping neighbor, but she didn’t have to be there. And was appreciated.
    What’s the Red Crescent up to these days? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • NEO says:

      My experience is that their field people are uniformly wonderful but, sometimes the HQ folks are more interested in their career, it happens, sadly.

      I’ve no idea, lately, hopefully taking care of refugees in northern Iraq and Turkey but I haven’t heard anything.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: My Article Read (2-20-2015) | My Daily Musing

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