Former FEMA head bristles at Katrina blame

Aug. 24, 2010 at 4:49 PM
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DENVER, Aug. 24 (UPI) -- The former head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency says he still bristles when blamed for the U.S. government's response to Hurricane Katrina.

Five years after the disastrous hurricane and flooding hit News Orleans Aug. 29, 2005, Michael Brown, who now lives in Colorado and hosts a radio talk show in Denver, said he is writing a book to set the record straight, ABC News reported Tuesday.

Brown, 55, said as the hurricane approached, "I remember telling the White House, 'I don't think you guys get it. This is going to be the big one that I've been fighting to get money for, that we've all been worried about. I think this could be it, and nobody seems to care.'"

Brown is defensive about the blame he still endures, ABC News reported.

Brown said as low man on the totem pole, he faced being fired rather than former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. Brown resigned Sept. 12, 2005.

With the federal response lacking, President George W. Bush stood next to Brown for what became a notorious photo opportunity, telling him, "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job," ABC reported.

"You could see me sort of cringe on camera when the president said that," said Brown.

"They probably would have fired me anyway, if I had gone public with what was really happening, but at least I would have called attention to how farcical the Department of Homeland Security had become with respect to the way that it does business," Brown said.

Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., current chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, noted Brown was head of FEMA but added there was plenty of blame to go around.

"Clearly, protocols were in place that indicated things that should have been done," Thompson said.

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