Former Director Michael Brown told ABC News' "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" Sunday he stood by comments in a Playboy interview, and President Bush wanted him to take the heat for the bungling.
"The lie was that we were ready and that everything was working as a team. Behind the scenes, it wasn't working at all," Brown said. "There were political considerations going into all the discussions. There was the fact that New Orleans did not evacuate and the mayor (Ray Nagin) had no plan."
Brown said it was natural to "want to put the spin on that things are working the way they're supposed to do. And behind the scenes, they're not. Again, my biggest mistake was just not leveling with the American public and saying, 'Folks, this isn't working.'"
The former FEMA chief cited what he called an e-mail "from a very high source in the White House that says the president at a Cabinet meeting said, 'Thank goodness Brown's taking all the heat because it's better that he takes the heat than I do.'"
Also on "This Week," U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., said the administration still doesn't understand the magnitude of the reconstruction problem; but the president's Gulf Coast coordinator, Don Powell, said the federal government's No. 1 priority is to rebuild the area in a businesslike way.