Staff editorial: Egregious error shows more cracks in FEMA

The Federal Emergency Management Agency did another "heck of a job" last week as it performed a fake news conference concerning the California wildfires, a move that perpetuated the downward spiral that is FEMA’s credibility.

After receiving numerous inquiries regarding what steps FEMA was taking to help those devastated by the wildfires, the agency set up a press conference -†but gave reporters only a 15-minute warning beforehand.

And the blunder keeps getting better.

Since reporters didn’t show up on time, FEMA staffers began asking questions†- while reporters, who were given a number to call in for the conference, were only allowed to listen.

The hard-hitting questions include one staff member asking FEMA Deputy Administrator Harvey Johnson whether he’s "happy about FEMA’s response so far."

"I’m very happy with FEMA’s response so far," he said.

FEMA’s credibility has been on thin ice since the world saw the great ineptitude that was the agency’s response Hurricane Katrina. And while strides have been made in the past to revamp the agency and solidify its position in the U.S. government, FEMA is hardly being a reliable source of aid for people in need when it dupes the public.

Another disturbing aspect of the story is that FEMA staff members posed as journalists and launched fluff questions to the agency’s No. 2 official.

FEMA has come out and apologized for this lapse of judgment, saying the press conference was intended only to disperse information.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who oversees FEMA, lambasted the faux press conference too. He said that he made it clear in "Anglo-Saxon prose that it will never happen again."

The best of the Chertoff comments: FEMA didn’t invite all the members of the press corps either, and only a TV crew from the Associated Press showed up.

At least hurricane season is drawing to a close.

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