Legacy Media is Pushing Critical Hurricane Ian Narrative of Lee County Officials

Legacy Media is Pushing Critical Hurricane Ian Narrative of Lee County Officials

Mateo Guillamont
Mateo Guillamont
October 6, 2022

The Miami Herald published an article yesterday, October 6th, covering Lee County’s response to Hurricane Ian,  suggesting that Lee County Officials’ response to the Hurricane came too late.

In a chain of tweets, the Miami Herald cites Lee County as having issued evacuation orders “more than 12 hours after other counties”. Specifically, The Herald references Pinellas and Hillsborough County evacuation orders. Both were issued 13 and 17 hours prior to Lee County’s own, respectively.

However, the Miami Herald does not mention that Pinellas and Hillsborough County were both originally expected to be directly hit by hurricane Ian, while Lee was supposed to remain on the fringes of the Hurricane’s path.

Lee County is also more than 120 miles away from Hillsborough and even farther away from Pinellas, another fact left out by the Miami Herald’s report.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s own director, Deanne Criswell, defended the timing of Lee County’s evacuation orders. On ABC’s “This Week”, Criswell stated that:

“Just 72 hours before landfall, the Fort Myers and Lee County area were not even in the cone of the hurricane, and as it continued to move south, the local officials immediately — as soon as they knew that they were in that threat zone — made the decisions to evacuate and get people to safety.” - Deanne Criswell.

The Herald’s implicitly accusatory statements did not include FEMA Director Deanne Criswell’s remarks regarding Lee County Official’s response.

At the state level, Governor Ron DeSantis defended Lee County Officials when asked about the evacuation orders.

The  Herald’s latest attempts to channel a narrative undermining Officials in Lee County are not the first of their sort. The Washington Post, NPR, and other national newspapers have also floated articles that question the timing of the County’s evacuation commands.

Last Monday, Lee County Commission Chairman Cecil Pendergrass (R) responded to the growing media pressure. Chairman Pendergrass stated that “72hrs before the storm, (Lee County) was still not in the cone, the (FEMA) director said that and we noticed it locally”.

Pendergrass added that “We were working on data and worked off the data”.

In addition, Politifact published a somewhat biased article about Gov. DeSantis's statement that Lee County was not in the cone. The story mentioned that the uninhabited Cayo Costa key was within the tracking cone, arguing the DeSantis was wrong in stating that the all of Lee County was not in the cone.

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Mateo Guillamont

Mateo Guillamont

Mateo is a Miami-based political reporter covering national and local politics

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