If you didn’t follow the story last week, last Tuesday FEMA held a mock press conference to tout its response to the California wildfires. Why mock? Because no reporters were actually present (though some listened in on a listen-only conference line), and the ‘questions’ posed to deputy administrator of FEMA Harvey E. Johnson were softballs lobbed by his own public relations staff.
To be fair, Homeland Security head Michael Chertoff was apoplectic over the incident, calling it “one of the dumbest and most inappropriate things I’ve ever seen since I’ve been in government”, a considerable rebuke considering DHS and FEMA’s run during Katrina (which Chertoff oversaw).
Of course, it turned out alright for some, as Director of External Affairs John â€œPatâ€ Philbin (who was one of the ‘reporters’ lobbing the softballs) stated afterward “It was absolutely a bad decision. I regret it happened. Certainly . . . I should have stopped it…we’re working very hard to establish credibility and integrity, and I would hope this does not undermine it“. Turns out that hindsight clarity is in peak demand, as Philbin will be taking over as the new head of public affairs at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence this week.