Former President Clinton Expresses Concern With Government Response to Hurricane Katrina

In a surprise call-in guest appearance during last night’s S.O.S. (SAVING OURSELVES): THE BET RELIEF TELETHON for Hurricane Katrina, former President Bill Clinton expressed his thoughts about the controversy surrounding the response by federal relief agencies to the tragedy. The focus of Mr. Clinton’s comments was the structure and leadership of the Federal Emergency Management Agency(FEMA).

The following are excerpts from comments made by Mr. Clinton when BET telethon co-host Steve Harvey asked for his assessment of the government’s response to Hurricane Katrina:

BET Telethon Co-Host Steve Harvey: “How do you think that the response to the tragedy could have been handled? If you were in office, what would you have done differently, if anything?”

Former President Bill Clinton: “… FEMA was a cabinet level position when I was in office, and all the departments worked for the FEMA director on the site of any disaster. It worked better that way. Secondly, the man I appointed to head it — James Lee Witt — was a proven professional who’d dealt with very, very severe natural disasters as the Director of Emergency Management in our home state (Arkansas) where we had the largest tornado death rate in the country. So, I think it was organized well. I think it was led well . . . We always thought faster was better than slower . . . The Congress should, I believe, consider reorganizing FEMA back to the way it was. I think there should be someone who’s qualified to be a director. But the most important thing now is to worry about the people in Louisiana and Mississippi and Alabama…”

For the telethon, BET brought together stars of music and entertainment for a primetime event to raise much-needed aid for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. The evening featured a parade of superstar artists and special guests, many with ties to the affected areas. Throughout the event simulcast on BET, BET Jazz, and a host of radio stations across the country, viewers and listeners called a designated toll-free phone number, logged on to or used special wireless access to make financial pledges to the Red Cross relief efforts.

Via PRNewswire

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