Saturday, October 27, 2007

More Government help..................

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.

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.

The questions from the staff were posed after FEMA gave reporters only 15 minutes notice for a news conference on Tuesday, meaning that other than television camera crews, no reporters showed up before questioning began. A toll-free telephone line was provided so reporters could listen in, but it was not set up to allow questions.

As a result, staff members asked Mr. Johnson a series of friendly questions like, “Are you happy with FEMA’s response so far?” and, “What lessons learned from Katrina have been applied?”

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