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FEMA director Brown more concerned with his looks than Katrina

From the Associated Press:

WASHINGTON - Newly-released e-mails show former FEMA director Michael Brown discussing his wardrobe during the crisis caused by Hurricane Katrina.

A House panel has released 23 pages of internal e-mail offering additional evidence of a confused and distracted government response to Katrina, particularly from Brown, the former head of Federal Emergency Management Agency, at critical moments after the storm hit.

The e-mails show that Brown, who had been planning to step down from his post when the storm hit, was preoccupied with his image on television even as one of the first FEMA officials to arrive in New Orleans, Marty Bahamonde, was reporting a crisis situation of increasing chaos to FEMA officials.

"My eyes must certainly be deceiving me. You look fabulous and I'm not talking the makeup," writes Cindy Taylor, FEMA's deputy director of public affairs to Brown on 7:10 a.m. local time on Aug. 29.

"I got it at Nordstroms," Brown writes back. "Are you proud of me? Can I quit now? Can I go home?" An hour later, Brown adds: "If you'll look at my lovely FEMA attire, you'll really vomit. I am a fashion god."

A week later, Brown's aide, Sharon Worthy, reminds him to pay heed to his image on TV. "In this crises and on TV you just need to look more hardworking ... ROLL UP THE SLEEVES!" Worthy wrote, noting that even President Bush "rolled his sleeves to just below the elbow."

Some lawmakers immediately decried the e-mails.

The e-mails "depict a leader who seemed overwhelmed and rarely made key decisions," said U.S. Rep. Charlie Melancon, D-La. He criticized Brown for addressing "superficial subjects such as Mr. Brown's appearance or reputation rather than the pressing response needs of Louisiana and Mississippi."


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