From The New York Times:
WASHINGTON, Oct. 26 — The Federal Emergency Management Agency staged a fake news conference this week, with agency staff officials, pretending to be reporters, peppering one of their own bosses with decidedly friendly questions about the response to the California fires, the Department of Homeland Security acknowledged Friday.
(In my best Jon Stewart voice) Aaaaaawkwaaard!!!
Original DVD cover.
The action, first reported on Friday in The Washington Post, drew a rebuke from the White House and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, and an apology from the agency official who was at the lectern, Harvey E. Johnson, the deputy director.
“We have made it clear that such a stunt will never be tolerated or repeated,” a spokeswoman for the department, Laura C. Keehner, said on behalf of Mr. Chertoff.
Yeah, right, Chertoff, you cadaverous asshole! Like this was some kind of surprise to you. Which page of the Chimpy/Karl Rove White House Handbook is fake press conferences on?
From the Washington Post:
Johnson stood behind a lectern and began with an overview before saying he would take a few questions. The first questions were about the “commodities” being shipped to Southern California and how officials are dealing with people who refuse to evacuate. He responded eloquently.
He was apparently quite familiar with the reporters — in one case, he appears to say “Mike” and points to a reporter — and was asked an oddly in-house question about “what it means to have an emergency declaration as opposed to a major disaster declaration” signed by the president. He once again explained smoothly.
FEMA press secretary Aaron Walker interrupted at one point to caution he’d allow just “two more questions.” Later, he called for a “last question.”
“Are you happy with FEMA’s response so far?” a reporter asked. Another asked about “lessons learned from Katrina.”
“I’m very happy with FEMA’s response so far,” Johnson said, hailing “a very smoothly, very efficiently performing team.”
“And so I think what you’re really seeing here is the benefit of experience, the benefit of good leadership and the benefit of good partnership,” Johnson said, “none of which were present in Katrina.” (Wasn’t Michael Chertoff DHS chief then?) Very smooth, very professional. But something didn’t seem right. The reporters were lobbing too many softballs. No one asked about trailers with formaldehyde for those made homeless by the fires. And the media seemed to be giving Johnson all day to wax on and on about FEMA’s greatness.
Of course, that could be because the questions were asked by FEMA staffers playing reporters.
“If the worst thing that happens to me in this disaster is that we had staff in the chairs to ask questions that reporters had been asking all day, [deputy director of public affairs Mike] Widomski said, “trust me, I’ll be happy.”
Heck of a job, Harvey.