Sitting in front of my computer Sunday morning, I noted a banner headline on Matt Drudge's site. According to Drudge, "scores" of Mississippi National Guard members, now serving in Iraq, had been denied emergency leave to return home and assist their families in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. There were no links, but the promise of more details later. "Developing," in Drudge-speak.
There was only one problem, the story was apparently false. Appearing on Fox News Channel Saturday evening, the Mississippi Guard's Adjutant General, Major General Harold Cross, reported that all deployed guardsmen from affected areas had been granted emergency leave, and the last of those soldiers would be home by Monday, 12 September. General Cross also noted that the primary units used for disaster relief are not currently deployed to Iraq, debunking another left-wing talking point.
To his credit, Drudge quickly removed all references to the Mississippi guard story, and there's no link to the original tease in his archives. But it would be very interesting to know what prompted the original headline, and the promise of a subsequent bombshell story. Armed with the facts, Drudge obviously decided there was nothing to the original report and moved on. But sadly, this claim will probably resurface in the mainstream press, as another way to cast blame on the Bush Administration.
BTW, a guard source tells me that the Army granted emergency leave for any deployed guardsman from south Mississippi, no questions asked. For guard members north of Jackson, leave was approved on a case-by-case basis, since those areas were less affected by the storm. I'm guessing that Drudge's initial report may have been based on the grumblings of guard members from northern Mississippi that first appeared on military message boards, and were subsequently re-circulated on liberal web sites.