The mayor of New Orleans, who excoriated US President George W. Bush's administration for its indifference to the victims of Hurricane Katrina, was again involved in controversy on Tuesday when he said the disaster was a sign of God's wrath at the US, and black Americans in particular.
"Surely God is mad at America. He sent us hurricane after hurricane after hurricane, and it's destroyed and put stress on this country," the mayor, Ray Nagin, said in a speech to mark Martin Luther King Day.
"Surely he doesn't approve of us being in Iraq under false pretences. But surely he is upset at black America also," Nagin said.
The mayor went on to describe an imaginary conversation with King: "We are not taking care of ourselves. We are not taking care of our women, and we are not taking care of our children when you have a community where 70 percent of its children are being born to one parent."
Nagin is seeking re-election in polls scheduled for April.
Criticized for his hesitation in ordering a mandatory evacuation of the city before Katrina made landfall, Nagin lashed out at Bush and other government officials who descended on New Orleans in the aftermath of the storm, and compared the slow arrival of relief with the response to Sept. 11.
On Tuesday there were calls for him to justify a promise to rebuild New Orleans as a "chocolate" city that some had seen as divisive in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
"How do you make chocolate? You take dark chocolate, you mix it with white milk and it becomes a delicious drink. That is the chocolate I am talking about," he said.
Before Katrina devastated the city, New Orleans was predominantly African-American. However, while many African-American neighborhoods remain uninhabitable after being severely affected by flooding, residents in white neighborhoods have been allowed to return home Uptown and to the French Quarter, prompting fears that New Orleans will return as a largely white town.
"I don't care what people are saying Uptown or wherever they are. This city will be chocolate at the end of the day," Nagin said.
"This city will be a majority African-American city. It's the way God wants it to be," he said.