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The only thing funnier than the fake news conference by top FEMA officials to praise their own work – is the dissembling by various officials to wash their hands of this embarrassment.
Harvey Johnson, the number two honcho of George W’s emergency management agency, which is infamous for bungling the Hurricane Katrina disaster, held a press briefing about the recent wildfires in Southern California. Curiously, he was getting only marshmallow-soft questions, such as: “Are you happy with FEMA’s response so far?” Well yes, Johnson exulted “I’m very happy.” It turns out that no real reporters were at the briefing – only FEMA staffers posing as reporters!
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When the deceit was exposed, Johnson had to apologize, saying, “We are reviewing our press procedures” to see what went wrong. Hello… it’s not your procedures that went wrong – it’s your ethics! You should resign and get a job where you’re not in a position to dupe the public.
Right behind Johnson was Pat Philbin, FEMA’s head of communications. He deplored the “bad decision” to try to manipulate the news and admitted “I should have stopped it.” But Pat tried to mitigate the embarrassment by pointing out that he had been working very hard to restore FEMA’s public credibility. “I would hope this does not undermine it,” he said. Well, gosh, Pat, if you have to have us answer that for you, then you’re not the one to be in charge of credibility.
Then came Bush PR flack Dana Perino to disclaim any White House responsibility and to assert that “it is not a practice we would employ.” Actually, Dana, it is, and you have. The Bushites have been caught in numerous attempts to plant fake reporters in press briefings, to pay columnists to write favorable reports, and to issue fake video news reports to TV stations.
Can’t anybody in the Bush administration be honest?
“FEMA Official Apologizes for Staged Briefing With Fake Reporters,” Washington Post, October 27, 2007
“FEMA Meets the Press, Which Happens to Be . . . FEMA,” Washington Post, October 26, 2007