If you look in the dictionary next to 'disgruntled', expect to find a photo of former FEMA Director Michael Brown. As the Today show graphic read, "Michael Brown Blames White House," and NBC Nightly News host Brian Williams was there to record every embittered word, with nary a nuanced question that might have probed Brown's account of the federal response to Hurricane Katrina.
In the interview excerpt shown on this morning's Today, Brown sought to exculpate himself by describing a conference call he had held with the President and top administration officials in which Brown informed them that 90% of New Orleans' population had been displaced.
Claimed Brown: "I am screaming that we need to do these things. We need all this stuff. It's like the old ketchup commercial. I just could not get the stuff to come out of the bottle."
You might expect that a good reporter would have challenged Brown's account. Instead, Williams fed him this softball: "Where was the disconnect?"
Brown: "I think the disconnect is this mentality that it's a natural disaster. I testified before Congress and caught a lot of flack for it but I still believe it: had there been a report that terrorists had blown up the 17th St. canal I would have been overwhelmed with resources."
Williams then portentously asked: "What has been your contact with people like Karl Rove since you left your job?"
Just in case anyone missed it, Williams helpfully responded: "Zero?"
"Not a word."
Going for the golden ring, Williams continued: "What has been your contact with the President of the United States since you resigned?"
"Not a word."
How's this for a tough final question from Williams: "Do you feel hung out to dry?"
Again, you might have thought that a reporter trying to present a balanced picture would have asked Brown how much of the responsibility could rightly be laid at his own feet. But Williams was content to let Brown cast all the blame at the White House.
Finkelstein lives in Ithaca, NY. The TV show he hosts - 'Right Angle' - was recently named 'Best of the Best' among public-access shows in his area. Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org