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Brown: Politics Plagued Katrina Response

Party politics played a role in decisions over whether to take federal control of Louisiana and other areas affected by Hurricane Katrina, the former director of the federal emergency management agency FEMA said.

Some in the White House suggested only Louisiana should be federalized because it was run by a Democrat, Gov. Kathleen Blanco, ex-FEMA director Michael Brown told a group of graduate students at a lecture on politics and emergency management at Metropolitan College of New York.

Brown said he had recommended to President George W. Bush that all 90,000 square miles along the Gulf Coast affected by the hurricane be federalized, making the federal government in charge of all agencies responding to the disaster.

"Unbeknownst to me, certain people in the White House were thinking 'We had to federalize Louisiana because she's a white, female Democratic governor and we have a chance to rub her nose in it," he said Friday.

Brown declined to say who in the White House had argued for only taking control of Louisiana, but said that he had later learned of the situation through Blanco's office and from other officials on the federal level.

Blanco reacted sharply on hearing what Brown had said.

"This is exactly what we were living but could not bring ourselves to believe. Karl Rove was playing politics while our people were dying," Blanco said through a spokeswoman, referring to President Bush's top political strategist. "The federal effort was delayed, and now the public knows why. It's disgusting."

Eryn Witcher, a White House spokeswoman, denied Brown's claims.

"It is unfortunate that Mike Brown is still hurling false statements about the events surrounding Hurricane Katrina," she said. "The only consideration made by the administration at the time of this tragedy and since are those in the best interests of the citizens of the Gulf region."

Brown, 52, was ousted from FEMA after the agency's much-criticized response to Hurricane Katrina. He also was ridiculed after President George W. Bush publicly praised him, saying he did a "a heck of a job," while thousands desperately waited for help. Brown now directs Emergency Management Programs for the Resilient Corp., a consulting firm.

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