White House: Fake FEMA news conference won't happen again
David Edwards and Jason Rhyne
Published: Friday October 26, 2007

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White House Press Secretary Dana Perino assured reporters today that the staged news conference organized on Tuesday by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) would not happen again, and said the White House would never employ such tactics at its own press briefings.

"It is not a practice that we would employ here at the White House or that we -- we certainly don't condone it," said Perino.

According to a report in the Washington Post, FEMA had instructed its own public relations staff to pose as reporters when no legitimate members of the media arrived in time for a hastily arranged briefing about the California wildfires.

"We had been getting mobbed with phone calls from reporters, and this was thrown together at the last minute," a FEMA deputy director of public affairs told the Post. "We pulled questions from those we had been getting from reporters earlier in the day."

Perino said FEMA alone was responsible for the decision to go ahead with the event.

"FEMA has issued an apology, saying that they had an error in judgment when they were attempting to get out a lot of information to reporters, who were asking for answers to a variety of questions in regard to the wildfires in California," she said. "It's not something I would have condoned. And they, I'm sure, will not do it again."

FEMA Deputy Administrator Harvey Johnson, who fielded questions from the stand-in "reporters," issued a statement today claiming an "error in judgment."

"Our intent was to provide useful information and be responsive to the many questions we have received," he said. "We are reviewing our press procedures and will make the changes necessary to ensure that all of our communications are straight forward and transparent."

Among the questions Johnson answered from FEMA employees was a query about the agency's performance during the fires:

"I'm very happy with FEMA's response so far," Johnson told his fellow FEMA employee. "This is a FEMA and a federal government that's leaning forward, not waiting to react. And you have to be pretty pleased to see that."

A full list of questions asked during the briefing is available at MSNBC's First Read.

The following video is from MSNBC's News Live, broadcast on October 26, 2007.