Another FEMA Faker Resigns

From TV coverage of the FEMA press conferenceThe California wildfire press conference staged last month by Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) staffers, who asked questions of their boss as though they were reporters, has claimed a second job. FEMA press secretary Aaron Walker resigned, effective in early December. It is not clear whether Walker's resignation was voluntary. Meanwhile, fall guy #1, FEMA's former director of external affairs John "Pat" Philbin, has started fighting back. "People who know very little about what happened have drawn conclusions and now I'm battling to recover my reputation and what I believe to be a fairly stellar career," Philbin told PR Week. "People were working fast, on very little sleep, and they were just trying to get information out." Philbin shared with O'Dwyer's a letter he sent to the Washington Post, which states, "I was busy with meetings and unaware prior to the briefing that reporters had been given inadequate time to arrive and the phone line was listen-only. The staff tried to salvage the event. ... Mistakes were made. ... Because I was in charge, I take responsibility. ... However, neither I nor anyone else on the staff is guilty of any attempt to deceive."


Philbin published an op/ed in [ PR Week], titled "Setting the Record Straight About FEMA's Press Briefing":

I have more than 20 years of experience providing communications counsel to senior executives and organizations on responding to crises. I would never plan or condone the event that happened. In an effort to protect my family, I kept quiet to let the media frenzy subside. In doing so, however, I ignored my own professional training, instincts, and education to set the record straight immediately. ...

I especially regret that in our communication efforts to inform the public about the work of dedicated FEMA employees, the media focused on its perception that we intentionally sought to mislead them rather than on the terrific progress and transformation of a much-maligned agency dedicated to enhancing the lives of disaster victims.