First lady: Charges that racism slowed aid 'disgusting'
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(CNN) -- First lady Laura Bush on Thursday denounced critics who say race played a role in the federal government's slow response to victims of Hurricane Katrina, calling the accusations "disgusting."
However, she noted that poor people were most vulnerable to the devastation and said that the disaster's aftermath is a "wake-up call" for the nation to address the issue.
Black people comprise about two-thirds of the population of New Orleans, and many lived below the poverty line.
On Wednesday, Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean said Americans have to face the "ugly truth" that race and class played a significant role in who lived and who died when Katrina swept across the Gulf Coast. (Full story)
Dean also said that "lots of people perished" because the Bush administration lacked "vision" in handling the disaster.
Several black leaders and groups have expressed outrage over rescue efforts. Among them was the Rev. Al Sharpton, who said last weekend that race played a role, and called Bush's response to the crisis "inexcusable."
Last week, rapper Kanye West condemned the Bush administration on a live telethon to benefit Katrina victims, contending: "George Bush doesn't care about black people." (Full story)
"I think all of those remarks were disgusting, to be perfectly frank because, of course, President Bush cares about everyone in our country, and I know that," Laura Bush told a journalist with American Urban Radio Networks on one of her flights to survey damage in Mississippi.
"I mean I am the person who lives with him. I know what he is like, and I know what he thinks, and I know how he cares about people."
The first lady also said: "I do think -- and we all saw this -- was that poor people were more vulnerable. They live in poor neighborhoods; their neighborhoods were the ones that were more likely to flood, as we saw in New Orleans.
"Their housing was more vulnerable, and that's what we saw and that's what we want to address in our country."
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