Republican National Committee spokesperson Sean Spicer stumbled over his words briefly Wednesday morning when MSNBC host Chris Jansing asked him to name federal disaster relief screw-ups under President Barack Obama.
“I don’t, uh, not that I …” Spicer began to say, before saying an earlier Jansing & Co. guest, USA Today Washington bureau chief Susan Page, brought up “several instances” where the Federal Emergency Management Agency had gotten in the way of relief efforts “in the past,” without naming any specific instances during the Obama administration.
Earlier in the show, Page said FEMA had been “controversial” in past instances when there were “glitches” in its service, giving the botched response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, during Republican George W. Bush’s presidency.
“On the other hand, it’s pretty popular with states and localities when it comes in and helps and picks up some of the costs in the aftermath of disasters like this one,” referring to superstorm Sandy, which ravaged the east coast of the U.S. Monday night.
Spicer defended the remarks made last year by his party’s presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, who said he supported cutting FEMA in favor of handing disaster control entirely to states, or “even better,” to private agencies. Romney has refused to answer questions about those statements this week at a “relief event” in Ohio.
Spicer said what Romney was actually saying was that should states should be at the forefront of those efforts, an argument Jansing contested, pointing out that FEMA resources were put in place after the agency consulted with those affected by the storm, and that both New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie — the keynote speaker at this year’s Republican National Convention — had been “effusive” in complimenting the Obama administration’s response to the disaster.
“They make the request, they know where the need is, and FEMA comes in and acts,” Jansing said. “Isn’t that the way it works now?”
Spicer said Sandy was an unusual case because officials had time to allocate resources before the storm hit Monday night.
“That’s not always the case,” he said. “As everyone knows, whether it’s a hurricane or an earthquake or another kind of natural disaster that comes out of nowhere, there’s not always the ability to do that, and I think FEMA does have a history of getting in the middle, a lot of red tape, and a lot of bureaucracy.”
Jansing’s interview with Spicer, aired Wednesday on MSNBC, can be seen below.