Vitter: Reid ‘an idiot’ for Sandy comments

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid applauds during a joint session of Congress in Washington
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) (Reuters)

Update: Sen. Reid has apologized for his comments. "I simply misspoke," he said. "I am proud to have been an advocate for disaster victims in the face of Republican foot-dragging, from Hurricane Katrina to Hurricane Sandy."

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) called Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) an "idiot" Monday for saying that the damage caused to the Gulf Coast by 2005's devastating Hurricane Katrina pales next to that caused by Hurricane Sandy. 

"The people of New Orleans and that area, they were hurt but nothing in comparison to what happened to the people in New York and New Jersey," Reid said on the Senate floor Friday, lamenting the two-month delay in passing a federal aid package to deal with the recovery in those states. 

“Sadly, Harry Reid has again revealed himself to be an idiot, this time gravely insulting Gulf Coast residents," Vitter said in a statement. "[B]y most any measure, Katrina was our worst natural disaster in history."

A spokesman for Reid told Jon Ralston that the senator was referring to the "economic impact in a more dense metropolitan area," not "underplaying what happened with Katrina in terms of tragic loss of life."

An estimated 1,577 people died in Louisiana as a result of Hurricane Katrina, along with 238 in Mississippi. In New York and New Jersey last fall, about least 113 people died. 

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said in November that "Hurricane Katrina, in many ways, was not as impactful as Hurricane Sandy, believe it or not." Again, he said, he was referring to the density and the damage to property, acknowledging that "Katrina had a human toll that thankfully we have not paid in this region." He even released a spreadsheet comparing the damage. 

Rachel Weiner covers local politics for The Washington Post.
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Rachel Weiner · January 7, 2013