US agency apologizes for news conference on fires

What if FEMA gave a press conference, and nobody (but FEMA) came? FEMA employees lobbed softball questions during a staged media event. Reuters:

No actual reporter attended the news conference in person, agency spokesman Aaron Walker said.

A spokeswoman for Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who has authority over FEMA, called the incident “inexcusable and offensive to the secretary.”

“We have made it clear that stunts such as this will not be tolerated or repeated,” spokeswoman Laura Keehner said. She said the department was looking at the possibility of reprimanding those responsible.

The agency had called the briefing with about 15 minutes notice as federal officials headed for southern California to oversee and assist in firefighting and rescue efforts. Reporters were also given a telephone number to listen in on but could not ask questions.