FACT CHECK: Do Photos Show Anderson Cooper Exaggerating Flooding From Hurricane Florence?

Emily Larsen | Fact Check Reporter

Many people on social media suggested that CNN anchor Anderson Cooper exaggerated flooding from Hurricane Florence, citing photos of him in waist-deep water with his camera crew in shallower water.

“Absolutely disgraceful! Apparently #HurricaneFlorence wasn’t devastating enough for @CNN’s @andersoncooper — so he had to exaggerate for his live shot. #FakeNews at its finest!” Gavin Smith, a former Trump administration political appointee who also worked on President Donald Trump’s campaign, said Saturday.

Many other laypeople claimed that the photos showed Cooper exaggerating flooding from Florence.


“Anderson Cooper of CNN FAKING like he is waist deep in water while covering the Florence hurricane…. The Fake Mafia Media cant even cover a hurricane without LYING,” one user tweeted Saturday.


“Anderson Cooper of CNN pretending to be in waist high water from hurricane Florence. …as always ..CNN FAKE NEWS,” another Twitter user said Saturday.

A meme posted in the pro-Trump Reddit community, r/The_Donald, on Saturday also suggested that the image was recent. “When you spend months excoriating a popular president because he calls out the fake news media, then you prove him right,” read a caption on one of the photos of Cooper in the water.

Verdict: False

The photos show Cooper covering Hurricane Ike in Texas 10 years ago, not Florence. Flooding in that area was severe.

Fact Check:

Florence hit North Carolina and South Carolina Sept. 14 as a Category 1 hurricane before waning into a tropical depression. At least 32 people have died from flooding caused by the storm.

Archived footage shows that the image of Cooper in waist-deep water came from his report on Hurricane Ike flooding in Bridge City, Texas, in September 2008.

While there were only a few inches of water on the road where he was reporting, areas surrounding the road were deceptively deep.

“You see that – the house there behind me – I actually wanted to kind of walk over to that house to kind of, you know, just see how badly it was flooded. I actually can’t even get over there,” Cooper said in the 2008 report. “If I took about two more steps behind me, I would – I would basically sink up to my neck in water.”

Cooper addressed the viral posts and memes on “Anderson Cooper 360” Monday night. The camera crew stood on higher ground in shallow water because it would not have been able to operate in deep water, but Cooper said he wanted to stay off the road and out of the way of emergency rescue crews.

“Now you can argue I didn’t need to be standing in waist-deep water. I could have stood on the road with the camera crew,” Cooper said. “But again, I didn’t want to be roaming around on the highway interfering with rescue vehicles in any way. I also wanted to show people how deep the water was, and how dangerous it is for anyone driving.”

Many people drive off the road during flooding and get caught in deceptively deep water, Cooper explained.

Some Twitter users accused Cooper of kneeling in the water to make the flooding look worse. Other clips from the report show that Cooper was not kneeling, however. In one clip, he walked to a post that shows that the water level was about a foot higher earlier in the day. In another clip, he took a few steps toward the camera crew into the shallower water so he could pet a dog roaming in the floodwaters.

(All Things Anderson Cooper/Screenshot/CNN)

(All Things Anderson Cooper/Screenshot/CNN)

Donald Trump Jr. also shared the photo alongside criticism of CNN Sunday but didn’t claim that it pictured Cooper in Florence. “Stop Lying to make @realDonaldTrump look bad,” he tweeted.

Lynne Patton, a Trump Administration appointee in the Department of Housing and Urban Development, posted a meme featuring the photos of Cooper on Instagram Saturday. “You know it’s sad when even the WEATHER is #FakeNews,” she wrote.

Cooper criticized tweets from Trump and other people on his show Monday night. “As for those who think I was kneeling, or faking the water level, or making it look worse than it was, or standing in some sort of a hole – this is an area where people had been trapped on the roofs of their homes by water,” Cooper said. “There was plenty of deep water all around.”

The National Weather Service reported that the storm surge from Ike reached 10 to 12 feet in Bridge City and downtown Orange and that over 5,000 homes from Bridge City to nearby Rose City suffered water damage.

Decade-old photos from Hurricane Ike in Bridge City show homes surrounded by the flooding.

Floodwaters from Hurricane Ike surround homes in Bridge City, Texas, September 14, 2008. REUTERS/David J. Phillip/Pool

Floodwaters from Hurricane Ike surround homes in Bridge City, Texas, September 14, 2008. REUTERS/David J. Phillip/Pool

Rescue boats are seen in Bridge City, Texas, September 14, 2008, after Hurricane Ike. REUTERS/Smiley N. Pool/ Pool

Rescue boats are seen in Bridge City, Texas, September 14, 2008, after Hurricane Ike. REUTERS/Smiley N. Pool/ Pool

Houses are surrounded by floodwaters of Hurricane Ike in Bridge City, Texas, September 14, 2008. REUTERS/Smiley N. Pool/Pool

Houses are surrounded by floodwaters of Hurricane Ike in Bridge City, Texas, September 14, 2008. REUTERS/Smiley N. Pool/Pool

Christopher Cox stands where he used to live in before Hurricane Ike destroyed his trailer in Galveston, Texas September 15, 2008. Ice, bottled water and other vital supplies poured into storm-struck Texas on Monday as the nerve center for the U.S. energy industry struggled without electricity to recover from Hurricane Ike's mighty punch. REUTERS/Carlos Barria (UNITED STATES)

Christopher Cox stands where he used to live in before Hurricane Ike destroyed his trailer in Galveston, Texas September 15, 2008. Ice, bottled water and other vital supplies poured into storm-struck Texas on Monday as the nerve center for the U.S. energy industry struggled without electricity to recover from Hurricane Ike’s mighty punch. REUTERS/Carlos Barria (UNITED STATES)

“We have seen rescue and evacuations throughout this day. People trapped on the top of the roofs of their homes since early morning hours. They thought they could ride out the storm. They found out they couldn’t as the water started to surge and the wind started to howl,” Cooper said in the 2008 report.

Cooper also reported on Hurricane Florence from North Carolina.

Smith and Patton did not respond to requests for comment.

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Emily Larsen

Fact Check Reporter

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