Brown: E-mail shows Bush glad FEMA took Katrina flak
Former FEMA director Michael Brown discusses the e-mail Friday on CNN's "The Situation Room."
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The former emergency management chief who quit amid widespread criticism over his handling of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina said he received an e-mail before his resignation stating President Bush was glad to see the Oval Office had dodged most of the criticism.
Michael Brown, former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said Friday that he received the e-mail five days before his resignation from a high-level White House official whom he declined to identify.
The e-mail stated that Bush was relieved that Brown -- and not Bush or Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff -- was bearing the brunt of the flak over the government's handling of Katrina. (Watch how Brown fell from grace -- 4:00)
The September 2005 e-mail reads: "I did hear of one reference to you, at the Cabinet meeting yesterday. I wasn't there, but I heard someone commented that the press was sure beating up on Mike Brown, to which the president replied, 'I'd rather they beat up on him than me or Chertoff.' " (Copy of e-mail [PDF])
The sender adds, "Congratulations on doing a great job of diverting hostile fire away from the leader."
CNN has been unable to verify the authenticity of the e-mail, but the White House designation "eop.gov" is part of the sender's e-mail address, indicating it came from the Executive Office of the President.
A White House spokesperson said in an e-mail to CNN: "This is an old rumor that surfaced months ago and we're not commenting on it. This story has already been reported and I have heard nothing at all that would substantiate it."
Some of the contents of the e-mail were first claimed in a column written by Brown's lawyer, Andy Lester, in the conservative weekly publication Human Events, and subsequently picked up by news media, but until now, the existence of a written record memorializing those claims have been unreported.
The e-mail was provided to CNN on the condition that the sender's name be redacted. Brown said only that the sender was a "good friend of the president," who has been with the president "a long time."
Brown said, he too, considers the sender a friend.
While acknowledging that part of a political appointee's job is to "take the sword" for the president, Brown said he has grown weary of Chertoff making him a scapegoat for FEMA's failures in the wake of Katrina.
"I'm not willing to take that sword for Michael Chertoff," Brown said.
"I'm frankly getting tired of Chertoff out there, every time he testifies, talking about how Brown didn't do this or that," Brown said. "As long as Chertoff continues to criticize me, I think we need to recognize that I was doing everything I needed to do down there."
Brown also reiterated an earlier call for the resignation of Chertoff, whom he said suffers from "political tone deafness." Brown suggested that despite announcements to the contrary, FEMA is not prepared for the 2006 hurricane season, which began June 1.
"I want the White House in general, in particular Michael Chertoff, to stop dragging me through the mud every time the issue of FEMA comes up," he said. "There's a lot of things that need to be done to fix FEMA and continuing to throw that at me is not going to solve anything."
Lester said the White House was handling the situation in "a cowardly way."
"What the White House was actually doing was taking some stories that got started in the media and pushing them and pushing them until everything got diverted to Mike," Lester said. "Mike Brown was being made the scapegoat."
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