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Bush rejects accusations of racism over Katrina

WASHINGTON, Nov 3 (Reuters) - Former President George W. Bush says criticism from some, including prominent rapper Kanye West, that his handling of the 2005 Hurricane Katrina showed he did not care about black people represented “an all-time low.”

In his memoir, “Decision Points,” to be released next Tuesday, Bush writes that charges flung at him that he was a racist during the Katrina crisis “was the worst moment of my presidency.”

In excerpts of an interview of Bush by NBC’s “Today” show, the former president was asked about West’s comment that “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.”

The accusation arose because many blacks were affected by the hurricane that ravaged Louisiana and other Gulf Coast states, and Bush came under sharp criticism for his handling of the calamity.

Bush, whose Today show interview is to be aired next Monday, said West’s charge was tantamount to being called a racist.

“And I didn’t appreciate it then. I don’t appreciate it now. It’s one thing to say, ‘I don’t appreciate the way he’s handled his business.’ It’s another thing to say, ‘this man’s a racist,’” Bush said.

“I resent it, it’s not true,” Bush said. “And it was one of the most disgusting moments in my presidency.”

He said his record was strong “when it came to race relations and giving people a chance.”

Bush writes in his book, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters, that his initial mistake on Katrina was failing to communicate his concern for the storm’s victims.

He said he should not have done an Air Force One flyover of New Orleans while much of the city was under water.

“The photo of my hovering over the damage suggested I was detached from the suffering on the ground. That wasn’t how I felt. But once the public impression was formed, I couldn’t change it,” he writes.

Bush tells of trying to convince then-Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco to accept U.S. troops to help maintain order but was repeatedly rebuffed. He said he wished he had simply overruled her but feared it could have triggered a constitutional crisis.

And of his much-ridiculed statement to then-emergency response leader Michael Brown that “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job,” Bush writes he was trying to give him a morale boost.

“I never imagined those words would become an infamous entry in the political lexicon,” he said. (Editing by Xavier Briand)