Oprah Talks Race and Asks What ‘If Katrina Hit Bel Air’

The talk show host offers her most candid comments yet one the storm.

By Jorge Rivas Feb 21, 2011

Oprah Winfrey has offered her criticism of the way the country responded to the victims of Hurricane Katrina before, but not quite the way she offered it on "Oprah Behind the Scenes" this past Friday.

"Let me just tell ya’, if that flood had been in Bel Air, there would have been something done. Believe me, something would have been done," Oprah told her producers in a staff meeting for a show featuring George W. Bush.

This is the exact same thing former New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin told her on her show immediately following Katrina. "If this thing would have happened in Miami, if it happened in LA, if it had happened in Chicago, we would have had everything that we needed," Nagin told Oprah.

But this time around Oprah brought a touch of color to the conversation: "People would not have been sitting around asking for water three days later. Whether that’s racist or not, I don’t know. What do you call that? I think when people get frustrated they throw the racist word around when they don’t know what to call things."

"People who are disenfranchised have more trouble getting things done than are people who are not. That’s just a fact. I don’t know if you call that racist, it’s just… I don’t know."

Perhaps she should recall the two shows she shot in New Orleans immediately after the storm hit the gulf because she was surrounded by black faces when she toured the Superdome.

"Nothing I saw on television prepared me for what I experienced on the ground," Oprah told viewers back then. "I think we all — this country owes these people an apology."

The blame game continues. On the show that was filmed in New Orleans, Nagin blamed the federal government for the slow response. Most recently, Bush blamed the state of Louisiana for not declaring a state of emergency early enough. But the former president did at least get one thing right when he said "we all could’ve done a better job."