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Former FEMA head: Katrina aftermath worse than reported

WASHINGTON - Five years after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, the federal official at the heart of a firestorm regarding Washington's slow response is acknowledging the government's shortcomings.

Former Federal Emergency Management Agency director Mike Brown tells NBC's "Today" show that "there was a disconnect" about what the Bush administration was saying about the situation, and how bad things actually were.

Brown said "there was a mentality in Washington which says you put the best face on everything." He said information given out by the administration was accurate, but "we never put it in context" with how much still needed to be done to lift the stricken city.

Brown is the man whom then-President George W. Bush famously praised publicly, saying, "Brownie, you're doing a heckuva job."

Brown says in a new HBO documentary on Katrina by director Spike Lee that he winced when Bush said that because he had just finished telling the president why things weren't working.

Brown, who now has a Denver-based radio show, will broadcast his political talk show from New Orleans on Wednesday and Thursday evening.

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama will use the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina to reaffirm his commitment to the Gulf Coast amid lingering questions about his administration's response to the BP oil spill. Obama ends his Martha's Vineyard vacation Sunday and heads to New Orleans.

New Orleans residents are welcoming Obama's decision to highlight the Katrina anniversary with a presidential visit. But many are also angry about jobs lost from the deep water oil drilling moratorium he ordered in the wake of the oil spill, and looking for more federal action to save precious wetlands that were eroding fast even before BP's well blew.

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