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Who's Playing The Blame Game?

Reported by Donna - September 27, 2005

Today on Studio B with Shepard Smith he went to Catherine Herridge for a story on the former head of FEMA, Michael Brown, and his testimony today on Capitol Hill.

While the story ran, under the title of 'America's Challenge', Fox chose three banners to use throughout the story, outlining Michael Brown's excuse theory:

'Former FEMA Head Blames Local Leaders For Katrina Failures'

'Former FEMA Director Michael Brown Defends Role In Katrina Relief'

'Brown Insists He Was Qualified To Oversee Katrina Response'

I was waiting for one big banner that said 'Michael Brown Screwed Up', but it never came. The story follows.

The following is my transcript (paraphrased, but pretty much verbatim):

Catherine Herridge: Former FEMA Director, Michael Brown, told the House Governing Reform Committee that he did make mistakes. The first was not briefing the media on a regular basis. (Comment: This is his first mistake, this is what he really thinks?) The second, failing to resolve the differences between the New Orleans Mayor and the Louisiana Governor. The third, not seeing that the situation would have disastrous consequences. (Comment: Excuses, excuses)

Michael Brown: I very strongly, personally regret that I was unable to persuade Governor Blanco and Mayor Nagen to sit down, get over their differences and work together. I just couldn't pull that off. (Comment: We just wanted water and food for those at the Convention Center and Superdome in less than four days)

Catherine Herridge: Brown said FEMA was not a first responder organization. He told the Committee it has less than 5,000 employees and, to suggest that the Feds should have intervened more aggressively, he said, was to ignore the emergency response standard that had been in place for decades.

Michael Brown: If we lose that concept of Federalism, we will have a breakdown in the local, state and national emergency managment systems. (Comment: Like the one we just had?) You'll inherently drive decision making to the Federal level. It will inherently create a system whereby communities become dependent upon the Federal Government to respond to all disasters and that's just not right or workable.

Catherine Herridge: Again and again, Brown said they had prepositioned assests including food, water and medicine outside the hurricane zone and it took time to move them in afterward. (Comment: Yes, a really, long, long time) Democrats and Republicans were highly critical of this 'in the pipeline' approach. It was not enough, they said, to blame local officials when it was well known, in all levels of government, that the levees of New Orleans could not sustain more than a category 3 hurricane..

Cut to video of Rep. Christopher Shays (R) Connecticut:

Rep. Shays: I think it's pretty astonishing that you said you didn't have the resources necessary to do your job. And, then to describe coordination in such a feeble way. The whole reason why I think you're there is to take command of coordinating working with, not just complaining about what other people are doing.

Switch back to first banner.

Catherine Herridge: Brown also took issue with a report in Time Magazine which alleged he had padded his resume. And, while Brown claimed the allegations were unfounded, he did admit that it made him less effective in the job. (Comment: What does that mean exactly?) Finally, in the last few minutes I think some of the sharpest criticism came from Congressman Shays, who said he comes to the conclusion that the administration placed loyalty above all else, including incompetency and that was true in the the case of Michael Brown.

Comments: While I will give credit for Fox showing Congressman Shay's remarks, the whole setup of the segment was an 'excuse game'. Or as the president likes to say, the 'blame game.' Fox likes to put things in nice, little, neat packages, which they did with their banners and showing Brown making statements blaming the local and state officials. I would have liked to see some footage of tough questions back and forth between congress and Michael Brown, but I guess I would have to tune into another station to see it.

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