As fires rage across southern California, FEMA has demonstrated that they're willing to step up to the plate and help everyone out. In fact, should reporters be unable to attend a press conference, FEMA is even willing to have its own staffers pose as reporters and lob softball questions at the FEMA deputy administrator.
The Washington Post reports that FEMA held a press conference on Thursday, but only gave the media 15 minutes advance notice. But from what was broadcast on TV, it looked like quite a few reporters had managed to show up:
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.
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.