Newly-released emails show America’s former disaster agency director discussing his wardrobe during the crisis caused by Hurricane Katrina.
A House of Representatives panel has released 23 pages of internal emails offering additional evidence of a confused and distracted government response to Katrina, particularly from Michael Brown, the former head of Federal Emergency Management Agency, at critical moments after the storm hit.
The emails show that Brown, who had been planning to step down from his post when the storm struck, 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 agency officials.
“My eyes must certainly be deceiving me. You look fabulous – and I’m not talking the make-up,” writes Cindy Taylor, Fema’s deputy director of public affairs to Brown at 7.10am local time on August 29.
“I got it at Nordstroms,” Brown writes back, referring to an upmarket department store. “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 George Bush “rolled his sleeves to just below the elbow”.
Politicians immediately criticised the emails.
The emails “depict a leader who seemed overwhelmed and rarely made key decisions”, said US Rep Charlie Melancon, a Louisiana Democrat.