Gibbs: Obama believes Katrina response failures were ‘colorblind’

Senior Obama campaign adviser Robert Gibbs dismissed claims from conservative media outlets that the president believed the botched federal response to Hurricane Katrina was influenced by race.

In an interview with "CBS This Morning" on Wednesday, Gibbs was asked about a video of then-Illinois Sen. Obama delivering a speech in 2007 in which he discussed the anger many African-Americans affected by the 2005 storm’s devastation felt at Washington’s mishandled relief efforts.

“The president says the incompetence surrounding the federal government’s response to Katrina in 2005 was colorblind,” said Gibbs. “If the Republicans want to defend the Bush administration’s response to Katrina, I’m sure the president would give them ample time during the debate to do that.”


Gibbs also expressed surprise that the speech, which was covered by the media when it was first delivered, had resurfaced as an issue in the 2012 campaign.

“I have to say I’m a little amazed that, as you mention, a widely covered speech, widely by people at your network, has somehow caused a kerfuffle five years later because somebody like Sean Hannity decided to re-air what was covered extensively,” he said to CBS’s Norah O’Donnell.

The video was touted on the Drudge Report and conservative website the Daily Caller and was aired by Fox News’s Sean Hannity.

In his CBS interview, Gibbs said that Obama would be focused on the economy during Wednesday's first presidential debate, in Denver.

He also sought to clarify Vice President Biden’s remarks Tuesday that the middle class had been “buried” the last four years.

“Medium household income didn’t fall under the last four years. Medium household income fell over the last decade,” said Gibbs.

He said what Biden meant was that we had “eight years of horrific economic decisions, tax cuts for the very wealthy Wall Street writing its own rules that culminated in an economic disaster that took place about four years ago and which we’ve had to dig out from each day of the last four years.”

“The middle class has been buried for a lot longer than the time that we've been dealing with bad economic decisions from the former administration," Gibbs said.

The Romney team quickly seized on Biden’s remarks Tuesday, with running mate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) saying at a rally that it was time to “stop digging” and a campaign Web video Wednesday that said Obama policies had left the middle class "hurting."