Reporter: Secretary Chertoff, FEMA’s response has been AMAZING! Please tell me, a member of the press, just how you were able to do such a FANTASTIC job!
Secretary Chertoff: Well, it starts in your gut. Deep down. And my gut said, “Mike, it’s been dry in San Diego.”
Reporter: I nominate your gut for a Presidential Medal of Freedom!
Rest of the FEMA reporters: 3 CHEERS FOR SECRETARY CHERTOFF!
I jest, but it’s not far from the truth. The Washington Post caught FEMA staging a press conference with FEMA employees as reporters. An excerpt:
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.
Asked about this, Widomski said: “We had been getting mobbed with phone calls from reporters, and this was thrown together at the last minute.”
But the staff did not make up the questions, he said, and Johnson did not know what was going to be asked. “We pulled questions from those we had been getting from reporters earlier in the day.” Despite the very short notice, “we were expecting the press to come,” he said, but they didn’t. So the staff played reporters for what on TV looked just like the real thing.
“Just like the real thing.” Maybe they can put that on their resumes.