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January 18th, 2010
12:57 PM ET

Haiti: Law and Disorder

From CNN anchor Don Lemon:

Just as I started the 6 p.m. newscast on Sunday night, my producer said in my ear, “We have some new video of chaos on the streets of Port-au-Prince.” I could hear someone in the newsroom saying, “They're looting.”

But where’s the line when it comes to looting or scrambling to survive?

Sure, there are opportunists in every bunch; people who will pillage and rob just because they can. But to me it looked liked most of the people just wanted basic needs: food, water, clothing and shelter.

Later, at 10 p.m., when I presented the video to retired Lt. Gen. Russel Honore’, the man who pulled New Orleans from the brink after Hurricane Katrina, he was adamant there is a sharp distinction between criminal looting and the need to stay alive.

Here’s our conversation as it played out live on CNN.

Filed under: Don Lemon
soundoff (42 Responses)
  1. Joe

    Cut the U.S. a little slack on the response to Hati with medical hospitals & supplies. We are fighting two wars with hundreds of thousands of troop & supplies in other countries. The U.S. will respond as we always do, but may be a little slower then other countries because of our situation.

    January 18, 2010 at 1:20 pm |
  2. Barbara Gibbons

    Who is feeding and protecting the small American doctor teams who went in Thurs & Fri?

    January 18, 2010 at 1:25 pm |
  3. Raymond Rapoza

    Why is there over 100,000 orphans in Haiti? ARE THE CHILDREN BEING ABANDONED by their parents? In any natual disasters, I can understand children becoming orphans. If they are disowning their children something should be done about it.

    January 18, 2010 at 1:33 pm |
  4. Carolyn Bond

    Looking and viewing the developing story on CNN, today... These reporters can't be for real. If this country had such horrendous destruction... Americans would be rioting and doing the same. There will always be those who take advantage of situations. To keep showing those people, is a disservice to the decent people. Reminds me of Katrina. AP and other news organizations, showed Blacks, with loot. They didn't show White people who were looting. In fact the caption for White people was:" they are getting food" Right... Heaven help this country. The people are compassionate and generous. They haven't experienced true deprivation yet...

    January 18, 2010 at 1:34 pm |
  5. Deltagirl

    What can you expect from people who have been hungry for days, who have had little rest, who are emotionally scarred? If it was me and I had a family who was hungry and injured, I would loot too. I would take everything I could get my hands on. For the store owners, they should be readily giving this stuff away.

    January 18, 2010 at 1:34 pm |
  6. Bill

    Why don't they use Amphibious Assault Vehicles to move all the supplies in through the roads that are blocked? This vehicle can carry alots of supplies and it can get through the roads that are block. look it up AAVP7 RAM/RS.

    January 18, 2010 at 1:45 pm |
  7. Angie

    Here is a thought: Maybe if the Non Haitians weren't in shuch a hurry to block the only run way and crowd the only airport with the broken hangar then just maybe the rescue and relief could have gotten there sooner. More people could have been saved sooner. Medical supplies would have been distributed sooner. Food and water could have been given sooner. And order would have been started sooner. But now we just sit behind our computers in our comfortable homes and jobs and complain about the people who were doing the best they could to bring the relief from around the world. So typical.

    January 18, 2010 at 2:02 pm |
  8. Vi

    My husband when told of the looting stated that this stuff will be used to barter for food or other needed supplies...or sold for food or $ for whatever they may need. He has spent weeks working in Gonaives with a missionary friend...and has seen first hand how people who are starving think and operate...give them a gift...something they can use and they will sell it for food. People were starving in Govaives Haiti before the earthquake...and now it is made worst by the destruction of Port au Prince from where all they have comes from.

    January 18, 2010 at 2:03 pm |
  9. Mrs. Eileen Curras widow to Hernandez(WWII)

    It is a struggle to survive in an emergency situation. People in Haiti have not received appropriate help yet if they are hungry, need medical attention; there are cold or need cloths. The people who are being saved have not received the proper medical care. I think that that the people on your studio must have common sense to make the proper analysis. The response to your question is desperation. This reminded of the situation in South Florida after Hurricane Andrew and that situation was not the same as in Haiti. It is certain that people loose self controls and in Haiti there is no authority now. Sure, there are many opportunists in every bunch. How long have we talked about this situation in Haiti? These people are desperate. People who have recently found under the rubble need immediate medial attention. These people from Haiti are simply helping themselves. The people just wanted basic needs: food, water, clothing and shelter. Why they have to endure such treatment thanks to the media companies, big organizations and their timing? Why can we understand that they want to survive? Yes, in my opinion the U.S. response will get there slower thanks to the economical situation.

    January 18, 2010 at 2:04 pm |
  10. Marye

    Thank goodness for General Honore who puts it like it is. Also, let's hear less from reporters and more from the Haitians (through interpreters) who can speak for themselves and describe their own reality to the viewers around the world.

    January 18, 2010 at 2:05 pm |
  11. michelle

    All the reporters seem to be able to get around with their crews and equipment. They can get to appalling tent medical care setups so why can't other groups get around and get supplies in! Israel has come across the world and has a tent hospital up with a lung ventilator system and the US is still just promising a hospital. I don't get it.

    January 18, 2010 at 2:15 pm |
  12. Dan Nelson Lafayette,IN

    Come on this is America if we can't get the relief to the people because of blocked roads were not looking good. Fly in the paratroopers and drop supplies with them in the most needed areas. The paratroopers could pass out the supplies in a controlled fashion. Do this in many areas and you'll see that the people stop looting and move to where the supplies are.

    January 18, 2010 at 2:17 pm |
  13. Teresa

    Taking DvD players, Mp3 players, Flat Screen Tvs, is looting. Taking other things like, food, water,blankets, first aid kits, anything that has to do with survival is NOT looting.

    January 18, 2010 at 2:19 pm |
  14. Yven

    My name is Yven (pronounced "even" like even-steven)

    I am 2nd generation Haitian-American born and raised in Miami but currently living in Pittsburgh. I am a student of Haitian history, and wondering: Why aren't you guys at CNN talking about the recent news of France trying to quickly cancel the debt that Haiti owes them? Could it be that France among other countries in the Paris Club, whose creditors are major contributors to the poverty of Haiti, is using the movement of international AID toward the victims of Haiti to clean it's dirty hands?

    January 18, 2010 at 2:33 pm |
  15. ken

    I am tired of hearing about what we are doing or not doing in haiti. Haiti is haitis problem. They need to take responsibility for their own problems. The u.s along with other countries should help with rescue operations, provide food and water, and provide buidling equipment and supplies and then get out. It appears that we are doing a military takeover of a country that has been run by military dictators for years. The un and red cross should be the major players not the u.s. military. I think an engineering construction unit would be more useful than paratroopers and marines with automatic weapons.

    January 18, 2010 at 2:40 pm |
  16. Tunmishe

    Those looting in Haiti are not doing it out of a sense of hunger, nor survival, but because of the mentality of insecurity that has permeated their social system for years. The average Haitian believes that no one watches out for them so they try to "make hay", with any opportunity.

    By the way, ignored by the U.S. media are the 350 Cuban doctors, all of whom survived, who have taken care of the Haitian population for 12 years and were the first to offer medical assistance after the killer quake.

    Today I am the one keeping you honest.(lol)

    January 18, 2010 at 2:43 pm |
  17. michelle

    The purpose to delay aide is due to the security factor and threat of frenzy. So it seems either way-there is a threat of frenzy– early into or late into an aide drop. Then why not drop it EARLY and get the aide out there and give the victims a CHANCE and some hope. Why WAIT to the point of utter DO OR DIE?

    January 18, 2010 at 2:49 pm |
  18. Vi

    I just praise God that the airport is operational!!! that the tarmac is not buckled and destoyed by the earthquake...and that plans can land there...imagine if that was not the case. I believe that we Americans, the military, and officials on the ground and doing the very best they can with what they have to work with. Keep in mind the logistics could have been much worse without the airport.

    January 18, 2010 at 3:02 pm |
  19. Mrs. Eileen G. Curras widow to Hernandez (WWII)

    Yven it is good to hear from a 2nd generation Haitian-American born and raised in Miami. It is good that you are currently living in Pittsburgh. It is even better that you are a student of Haitian history. Your question is a good one. Why aren't CNN reporters talking about the recent news of France trying to quickly cancel the debt that Haiti owes them? How long has being this debt? Your remark Yven that France among other countries in the Paris Club is using the movement of international AID toward the victims of Haiti to clean their dirty hands should be addressed. How much Haiti was paying and for how long?

    January 18, 2010 at 3:02 pm |
  20. Mrs. Eileen G. Curras widow to Hernandez (WWII)

    Ken you have spoken like a truly politician but the president took that decision. We will have to hear this rap for a long time. Haiti should have grasp the idea to take controls of their problems but if the legal system has not found a way to step out of dues from France. What can be said? They need to take responsibility for their own problems. The problem with Haiti is that it is to close to the U.S. and many administrations have gone by and the corruption continues in Haiti. The U.S. along with other countries should help with rescue operations. It seems to me that food and water are not getting to the people and with the history repeated again and again. The only ones who have benefited are the rich strong families. Haiti without ports or safe airports. How can build equipment and supplies can get to the island? It seems to me that we are protecting the country. The intention has not being military takeover. The truth is this is chance to end up with dictators. The UN has lost their representatives in the island. The Red Cross seems to not have substitution of their representatives yet. Sadly the U.S. military is the biggest entity. The paratroopers are to manage the situation at hand due to the lack of ways to get to the island. The engineering construction unit should have being there long time ago. The island does not need more military control. I imagine that the people would like to find something to do to help. This is a poor country and the health of the people has being challenged by the lack of resources. They do not need harassment.

    January 18, 2010 at 3:30 pm |
  21. Colleen

    "But where’s the line when it comes to looting or scrambling to survive?"

    I absolutely agree with both Lt. Gen. Russel Honore’ and Don Lemon's view of the video and that it is clearly people scrambling to survive. And it's extremely upsetting to me each time I see news channels showing images, that in my opinion, presenting this in a misleading way.

    The Haitian citizens have been through more then I think anybody who isn't there will ever be able to comprehend. Their ability to survive, come together and continue to have faith, love, compassion, understanding, respect and patience is possibly the greatest lesson they can teach the world.

    They are truly an inspiration and in turn we must do everything we can to help them in every way we can. And I believe reporting as accurately as possible in one of the most important ways we can help them. And I hope that CNN will do that with every single report they air.

    I am praying for everyone who has been effected by the earthquake in Haiti.

    January 18, 2010 at 3:51 pm |
  22. Jim

    The litmus test is easy to me, what are they carrying in the hands? I watched this in New Orleans after the flooding brought on by the failure of the levee (not the hurrican itself!) and it is simple. If you are carrying diapers, formula, water, food, blankets, etc. you and your family are attempting to survive in dire circumstances, if you are carrying televisions, recorders, etc. you are a thief. I saw plenty of both.

    January 18, 2010 at 5:03 pm |
  23. Ed Mullaly

    I hope to God the U.N. and the countries involved are going to a "Lessons Learned" review after this. Didn't we learn anything after Katrina and the tsunami?

    What good is hundreds of millons of dollars in aid, and thousands of relief workers, sitting there if they can't get it to the people? It doesn't do dick for the people who are dying, injured, starving, thirsty, or already dead. How many "preventable" deaths do we need?

    It's common knowledge that rescue and relief has to be provided within hours of a disaster. Do we have to reinvent the wheel everytime one happens?

    Someone has to be in charge, for God's sake.

    There should be rapid response teams organized, in multiple geographic locations, ready to go at a few hours' notice, whose sole responsibility would be to start the nucleus setups for communication and organizational facilities, security, infrastructure repairs adequate for the relief to follow, and liaison with local authorities.

    Emergency aid in the immediate aftermath should, at least, be channeled through the first response team, so that they can keep track of who's doing what, where.

    Follow-up aid can then start with an organized structure to work with and, hopefully, can actually get the aid to the peoplke who need it.

    I propose General Honore to head up the review, if not the actual project.

    January 18, 2010 at 5:30 pm |
  24. missy

    Parents do abandon their children in Haiti. They know they cannot care for them and give them up with hopes that they will be adopted by wonderful parents that can care for them.

    I wanted to add that I am sick of seeing this Joseph guy on CNN. What the heck is he doing? He hasn't even been there one time since the quake. Why not? These are his people. All he's doing is sitting back and "trying to tell the world" what he knows. If you listen long enough, he doesn't seem to know much. He has no numbers, he doesn't know the answer to that question. Whatever!! Get real man. Go to your people. If I could I'd be on a plane right this minute to Haiti helping these poor, devistated people. God be with them!!!!!!!!

    January 18, 2010 at 6:42 pm |
  25. Jim Brooks

    Please express my heart-felt thanks to Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Anderson Cooper for the work they are doing in Haiti. CNN and the American people should be very proud of them.

    January 18, 2010 at 7:58 pm |
  26. Michael Callahan

    I am sooo disappointed in Dr/ Sanjay Gupta – that he is actually there to as a correspondent – rather than treating patients.. Yes, he had a photo-op where he was handling a newborn...and he manned a deserted medical tent one night. BIG DEAL ! He is a medical doctor and he should be working 18-20 hours a day ONLY treating patients.. We should not see him in short sleeve shirts, as if he were on vacation I have lost total respect for CNN as well as Dr. Gupta..and I am not alone in that assessment. As a medical doctor, he should ONLY be treating the injured and dying... There are other reporters for news.. Give me a break !

    January 19, 2010 at 12:31 pm |
  27. John Babitskas

    The sooner this becomes a U.S. operation in Haiti, the sooner the international community pulls it support. Then it becomes a liability on the ledger of the U.S. Treasury. Nuff Said !

    January 19, 2010 at 12:38 pm |
  28. Sean

    The media needs to cut the Haitian people some slack about the looting. It is only human nature. Going without food, water, shelter for days, and feeling hopeless would cause the people of any nation to react the same way.

    Focusing on this and other minor problems by the media only detracts from getting the people the help they truly need.

    January 19, 2010 at 1:27 pm |
  29. Samir

    Considering the situation that this nation is in i really do not see this as "looting." The situation falls under the question that if one of your family members were sick; would you steal medicine for them.

    January 19, 2010 at 4:52 pm |
  30. JoAnn

    I think everyone that went to Haiti's is doing an awesome job!!!!!!! We are so blessed to have qualified men and women to lay down there lives to lend a helping hand. Considering ourself when we see the news and hear of disaster in other places. We live in the United States and that could happen to us. How would we feel if we had no water to take a bath or to drink, no shoes or clothes and no place to lay our heads at night.

    January 19, 2010 at 5:55 pm |
  31. Divya

    It is so true that media needs to stop taking on Haitians for loot. It is so obvious that if one doesn’t have food to eat, one could go to any extent to survive. I totally agree with Sean. I have seen it happened before, just look at America. Whenever big hurricanes hit the south, people go wild. If that happens in a developed nation, how do you think that it’s not going to happen in poor countries? News channels just want something to talk about so that they can say we are better than others.

    January 19, 2010 at 6:02 pm |
  32. Sandy

    I've followed CNN coverage of Haiti with a heavy heart with bursts of joy for the survivors pulled from the mounts of debri and frustration at recovery efforts and medical needs...still. I hate the fact that no one got to these poor people when they could have saved so many more and I hate the fact, medical attention was so lacking and still is. The way I see priority should have been water, pulling people from the debri time sensitive to recovery of people being alive and medical attention with urgency.

    What went wrong here? Seems to me everything. Had Dr. Sanjay Gupta not been there early on, many more lives would have been lost.
    The bureaucrasie leading up to aid was ridiculous...these people needed our help urgently and we basically handed them a long, horrible death sentence. I wonder now what will happen here when the next big one flattens our city, thrusts us into darkness, buries our children and loved ones and badly injures others...are they going to be sitting around arguing about security and less urgent needs while I lay buried under a pile of debri hoping help will not repeat Haiti.
    It scares me to death that any hope for life is being debated in timelines of a week, in 2 weeks in a month. These words, I hope, will never be uttered again, if I am buried alive please...don't hand me a death sentence!

    It took nearly a week to see looting in port au prince and isolated just as it is in many situations. With what help the haitians were actually receiving I probably would have looted too, they're making a statement and i say good for them!

    January 20, 2010 at 11:46 am |
  33. Sandy

    I also would like to know why on earth choppers didn't take these rescue workers with rescue dogs and their tools and fly them into an open field and let them do what they do best, rescue people buried alive. There were rescue teams from all over the world. They should have been there less than 24-hours after the earthquake! This disturbs me greatly

    January 20, 2010 at 11:58 am |
  34. GeraId

    >Sandy I think that if more honest reporting was done on behaIf of the efforts being made by the miIitary then you wouId have seen that many rescue teams were in fact fIown in. As a matter of fact I am in the uscg, and our heIos were the first rescue pIatforms on scene in port au prince. They, aIong with the other miIitary services have been fIying in and out nonstop since that first night. The issue is not the amount of response but Iimited avaiIabiIties IogisticaIIy to get them aII in. AIso without the avaiIabiIity of fIying to outer Iying airports, i.e. in dom. rep. there is onIy one runway...not exactIy accomadations for 100% rescue capabiIity...

    January 20, 2010 at 12:41 pm |
  35. Ann

    My question is – why Haitians living in the US are not allowed to go to Haiti with items for theiir realitives. Don't you think that this will help the UN and others on the ground? Is there another area in Haiti where the elderly can be taken and be cared for in a dignified and safe manner? For that matter they should flown out of the island until such time.

    They are looting because they are hungry and tired and nowhere to go .....this is called survival......

    January 20, 2010 at 2:27 pm |
  36. ron drake

    I will make a comment regarding Canadian assistance, because my country may get lost in the shuffle of the momentous aid being given to Haiti.
    Within 24 Hrs, a DART team was on its way, with a dessalination unit, Doctors, and military personnel to assist Haitians.{DART means Direct-Aid And Resourses Team} .
    It is a very small donation indeed, but the Canadian G'ovt also will contibute 50 million dollars as well.
    And ALL Canadians are responding in Every Way Possible.

    January 21, 2010 at 2:41 pm |
  37. Patricia Mills

    Strange, You can sponsor a child but can't adopt one . Hmmm. Sounds like a money maker to me. I will not give anything. I will keep my money at home. If someone I know needs help ,I am on it.

    January 21, 2010 at 2:48 pm |
  38. Ronald Davis

    I have been watching the recovery efforts and wonder if there is a need for tools-shovels, picks and crow bars.

    January 21, 2010 at 3:57 pm |
  39. Nancy Cosby

    I saw "looters" taking carpets from destroyed buildings. Maybe they needed something for their sick child to lie on. Stop with the term looters, please. These people have been through hell.

    January 21, 2010 at 4:57 pm |
  40. mark sharp

    CNN, I watch you all the time, but please stop showing the two Haitians shot in the middle of the street, where is the dignity, I understand it captures ratings but c'mon, this guy is bleeding out in the middle of the street due to corrupt police.

    You have the camera all on the greaving mother, you wouldn't do this in U.S., don't do it to them, stop making them out to look like idiots and monsters.

    January 22, 2010 at 3:20 pm |
  41. maryl mccann

    It's early to think about this,but I have a great idea. Let's take all the building rubble out of Haiti and transport it to rebuild the levies in New Orleans. This would benefit both countries and create JOBS.Please help me get the word out. Thanks!

    January 22, 2010 at 10:29 pm |
  42. Bev Taylo

    Hey Mr. Lemon,

    Thanks! Your reporting on CNN is awesome! Keep it up. With regard to the Haitian orphans I wonder why there are no (or very few) African Americans adopting. It's wonderful that any American citizen would open their arms and homes to children of any poor nation struck by disaster after disaster. I am hopeful that all the kids being adopted from earthquake ravaged Haiti will be treated well regardless of the skin color of their new parents. Thanks again for the great job you do on behalf of all people who watch CNN.


    January 23, 2010 at 8:24 pm |