The Future of News? FEMA’s Fake Press Conference

The WaPo’s Al Kamen watched a press conference on Tuesday that was given by FEMA Deputy Administrator Harvey Johnson. He got a little suspicious.

The reporters were lobbing too many softballs. No one asked about trailers with formaldehyde for those made homeless by the fires. And the media seemed to be giving Johnson all day to wax on and on about FEMA’s greatness.

So he did a little digging. Turns out the press conference was a fake. Carried on Administration-friendly networks like Fox and MSNBC which asked no uncomfortable questions about its source, the so-called “reporters” asking the questions were actually FEMA staff members.

[T]he questions were asked by Cindy Taylor, FEMA’s deputy director of external affairs, and by “Mike” Widomski, the deputy director of public affairs. Director of External Affairs John “Pat” Philbin asked a question, and another came, we understand, from someone who sounds like press aide Ali Kirin.

It would seem that the Bush Administration is experimenting with yet another method of pushing propaganda by doing an end run around the actual news media. A couple of years ago they got caught sending out videotapes masquerading as free-lance “news reports” to local tv stations all over the country. Gullible, lazy editors played them without bothering to check them out. Not long after that debacle, the WH got caught again, this time paying media figures to promote its policies. Both these flagrant attempts to propagandize were illegal, not that they ever faced charges for what they did.

One might wonder why the WH bothers. After all, the US press has been voluntarily subservient for the better part of Bush’s presidency. With movement conservatives placed strategically in key positions at the biggest news outfits in the country and Fox acting as the president’s private news service, there hasn’t been much in the way of actual investigative journalism on the part of the WH press corps since he stole his first election. What’s the Admin worried about?

Well, some of the media honchos have started doing their jobs again. In the past year or two, real journalists have dug into the Admin and finally noticed rampant corruption, the politicization of the DOJ, the constant lies and misinformation in WH statements, and so on. Occasionally, they have even reported on those things and editors have printed them. The press is a bit less friendly than it was 2 years ago, at least in part because Admin figures have become so arrogant that they’ve been bragging publicly about what they’ve gotten away with that they couldn’t be rationally ignored any longer.

Hence this latest ploy – which, apparently, was accepted by everybody except Kamen as genuine. If this was indeed a dry run for future WH propagandizing, we may have to get to know what real reporters look like to be sure the latest Bush press conference wasn’t cooked up in the basement with Rove staffers.

Oh yes, Karl is still around. This stunt has all the earmarks of a Rove/Bartlett Production. Seems his “resignation” may have been fake as well.

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