Disaster Chieftains Do A Heck Of A Job With a Fake News Conference
Al Kamen has a priceless item in his latest Washington Post column about why questions at a Washington FEMA news conference Tuesday about the California fire response were soft at best.
The reason: all of those asking the questions were FEMA employees posing as reporters. That must have really cheesed off MSNBC and FNC, which carried some of the briefing live.
The feeble justification for this came from spokesman Mike Widomski, who said the newser was thrown together at the last minute because the agency had been deluged with calls from reporters.
In the end, news organizations were given 15 minutes advance notice. Reporters could dial into the briefing by phone, but would not be allowed to ask questions.
So, FEMA couldn't wait another hour for journalists to hightail it down to HQ to hear FEMA deputy director Vice Adm. Harvey Johnson pat the agency on the back? Guess not. Then he would have had to field questions that included the K word. Can't have that now.
All of this fakery was viewed as no big deal by Widomski, when quizzed by Kamen.
"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, trust me, I'll be happy."
Then he must be positively ecstatic, not to mention totally clueless. But such is FEMA.
If Widomski's name is vaguely familiar, that's because he was on the receiving end of one of the most notorious emails that sent at the height of Michael ("Heck Of A Job) Brown's reign of error.
It came from Marty Bahamonde, who was the only FEMA official in New Orleans when Katrina hit. Bahamonde had been sending urgent emails to Brownie about how things were going from worse to catastrophic at the Superdome, and not getting much of a response.
Then Brownie's press secretary wrote that "[i]t is very important that time is allowed for Mr. Brown to eat dinner. Gievn [sic] that Baton Rouge is back to normal, restaurants are getting busy. He needs much more that [sic] 20 or 30 minutes."
To which Baramonde replied to Widomski and another FEMA flack:
"OH MY GOD!!!!!!!! ... Just tell her that I just ate an MRE and crapped in the hallway of the Superdome along with 30,000 other close friends so I understand her concern about busy restaurants. Maybe tonight I will have time to move my pebbles on the parking garage floor so they don't stab me in the back while I try to sleep."
No indication that Widomski ever replied. Even he must have known it was best to keep his mouth shut.
UPDATE AT 7:30 P.M. ET
FEMA says it's sorry. "Stunts such as this will not be tolerated or repeated."