During the Hurricane Katrina fiasco, FEMA found out the hard way that sometimes the press just isn’t feeling very charitable towards the incompetent agency. So when they had a press conference today, the Washington Post‘s Al Kamen reveals, it’s way better to just make sure the reporters can’t get there, and then to assign various staffers with make-believe roles as pretend reporters.
America’s best organization, living up to the name:
Reporters were given only 15 minutes’ notice of the briefing, making it unlikely many could show up at FEMA’s Southwest D.C. offices. They were given an 800 number to call in, though it was a “listen only” line, the notice said — no questions. Parts of the briefing were carried live on Fox News, MSNBC and other outlets.
[...] 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. We’re told the questions were asked by Cindy Taylor, FEMA’s deputy director of external affairs, and by “Mike” Widomski, the deputy director of public affairs. Director of External Affairs John “Pat” Philbin asked a question, and another came, we understand, from someone who sounds like press aide Ali Kirin.
Neat trick! Next time, though, you might want to ring up Jeff Gannon. He’s cheap! And that will free up the staff to concentrate on more important duties, like going on Starbucks runs and arranging dramatically backlit photo-ops.