Brown: 'Can I Go Home?'

Former Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Director Michael Brown testifies during a hearing before the House Select Hurricane Katrina Committee on Capitol Hill September 27, 2005 in Washington, DC. The full committee met to hear testimony on FEMA's response to Hurrican Katrina. AP

"Can I quit now? Can I go home?" one e-mail sent by former Federal Emergency Management Agency director Michael Brown reads.

E-mails sent by Brown during and immediately after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast reveal that he was looking for a dog sitter, chatting about shopping and showing concern about his appearance during the tumultuous time.

A House panel investigating the government's sluggish response to the storm has released 23 pages of internal e-mail from the time Katrina hit. The e-mails could bring more criticism to Brown, who has already been removed from his post after being denounced by lawmakers for his handling of Hurricane Katrina.

In one e-mail, sent on Aug. 29 as Katrina was pummeling the Gulf, a FEMA public affairs official tells Brown the outfit he wore on a television appearance looked "fabulous," to which Brown replies, "I got it at Nordstroms," then adds, "Are you proud of me? Can I quit now? Can I go home?"

CBS News correspondent Bob Orr reports that an hour later, as thousands of evacuees huddled in the Superdome "shelter of last resort," Brown fired off another email: "If you'll look at my lovely FEMA attire you'll really vomit. I ama fashion god." (sic)

And after the levees failed and the situation grew even more desperate, FEMA's point man in New Oreans pleaded for Brown to send more help.
"... you know the situation is past critical," wrote Marty Bahamonde. "Estimates are many will die within hours."

Just four minutes later Brown wrote back a light message: "Thanks for the update. Anything specific I need to do or tweak?"

In another, an aide reminds Brown to pay heed to his image on TV, suggesting that he roll up his sleeves.

By Sept. 2, Brown expressed inundation with the disaster response. He wrote to a GOP consultant who had requested a meeting, "I'm trapped now! Please rescue me!"

The following day, Brown wrote to a fellow FEMA employee: "I feel like I'm getting the s--t beat out of me …"

In response to an e-mail with a subject reading "U ok?" Brown wrote on Aug. 30, "I'm not answering that question." But he did ask the fellow FEMA employee if he knew of a good dog sitter or even "any responsible kids."

Click here to read the e-mails (PDF).


Some lawmakers immediately decried the e-mails. Louisiana Democrat Charlie Melancon say they "depict a leader who seemed overwhelmed and rarely made key decisions."
  • Gina Pace

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