FEMA Official Loses Post for Staged Press Event

Pat Philbin presided over a media conference in which Federal Emergency Management Agency staffers asked the questions.

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RACHEL MARTIN, host:

Hey, good morning, everyone. It looks like a top official at the Federal Emergency Management Agency is going to lose his job over the fake FEMA press conference last week.

According to reports, FEMA's Director of External Communications Pat Philbin has been denied a promotion, making him the highest-ranking casualty of a news conference staged by FEMA to publicize its response to California's wildfires. Philbin was scheduled to become director of public affairs for the director of national intelligence - not anymore.

FEMA's chief slammed his agency's public relations department for filling a press conference with its own people to pad the questions about FEMA's work in California. Hard-hitting questions like this one, posed at the conference by an unidentified FEMA employee.

Unidentified Man (FEMA Employee): Are you happy with FEMA's response so far?

Vice Admiral HARVEY JOHNSON (Deputy Administrator, FEMA): I'm very happy with FEMA's response so far.

MARTIN: Michael Chertoff, the secretary of Homeland Security, also spoke out this week, saying there would be consequences.

Secretary MICHAEL CHERTOFF (Department of Homeland Security): I think it was one of the dumbest and most inappropriate things I've seen since I've been in government. And I made it unambiguously clear, in Anglo-Saxon prose, that it's not to ever happen again, and there will be appropriate disciplinary action taken against those people who exhibited what I regard as extraordinarily poor judgment.

MARTIN: FEMA's chief David Paulison has announced reforms in the Office of External Affairs to try to quote, "restore the agency's integrity and make sure nothing like this happens again," end quote.

Now, agreeing to decide may sound inconclusive, but when the U.S. Supreme Court agrees to decide, it could have major repercussions. And that's what happened yesterday, when the court agreed to hear arguments about whether ExxonMobil Corporation should pay $2.5 billion to victims of the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

It was nearly 19 years ago when the tanker spilled 11 million gallons of crude oil into the Prince William Sound in Alaska. The courts ordered the company to pay billions of dollars in punitive damages. Exxon has argued that because it's already paid $3.5 billion in cleanup costs, fines and settlements of private claims, it shouldn't have to pay more. The case is scheduled to be argued in February with the decision in early summer.

Stay tuned for more on the new Supreme Court session coming up next in the show. Stay tuned also for your sports update, which is coming right now.

The New York Yankees are expected to announce today that they've found themselves a new manager, and his name is Joe Girardi. I'll get through this newscast. It will be a homecoming for him. He won three World Series as a Yankees' player in the 1990s. He'll replace Joe Torre, who rejected a watered-down offer to renew his contract after the Yankees failed to get to the playoffs this year.

Moving on to Monday Night Football happenings, the Packers beat the Broncos 19 to three. Brett Favre threw an 82-yard touchdown pass on the first play from scrimmage in overtime to win the game.

And that's the news. And it's always online at npr.org.

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BURBANK: …rardi. Joe Girardi.

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BURBANK: …drink of water from the wrong part of the stream. Joe Girardi, congratulations.

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