Showing that it can now be trusted, FEMA deputy director Vice Admiral Harvey Johnson staged a fake news conference on October 23, 2007 about the agency’s response to the Southern California wildfires. The press was given only 15 minutes notice. This made it impossible to attend, but reporters were given the option to listen but not ask questions by phone. FEMA staffers posing as reporters then lobbed softball questions which Johnson proceeded to swat out of the park. Unfortunately, some of the real reporters recognized the voices of the staffers over the phone, and the truth came out. For an agency whose credibility was blown to smithereens by its fumbling during Katrina, this was not the way to restore it.
As a result of blowback from this story, on October 29, 2007, it was announced that FEMA’s press chief Pat Philbin would not be taking over a similar position for Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell. Aside from getting caught, I would think this episode would have made him the perfect choice for the truth challenged McConnell.