Thursday on MSNBC, former Obama administration FEMA Chief Craig Fugate ripped out his earpiece and walked off during an interview with Katy Tur about the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Fugate said, “I think we were using hope as a strategy. It wasn’t going to be this bad. We could ease into it. We had a lot of capacity. The alarms were going off early. We were slow to this. Now we’re playing catch-up. The whole thing about having a single person in charge, I’m going to call BS. That comes as a single point of failure. We actually have 50 people that are the lead, that’s the state governors and their public health departments. The biggest thing the federal government can do is get them money because there’s not enough resources to do what needs to be done. Governors need to be in power to take dramatic action, protect lives, maximize their resources, start-up production. If we wait for the federal government, we’re too late.”
He added, “I’ve always believed the best way the federal government can support governors is to get out of their way, get them funding, use CDC to give guidance. As we’re running out of stuff, I’m asking, why are we not looking at idle capabilities now and governors go contract for that? Why wait for the federal government?”
Former Obama administration official Andy Slavitt said, “So it’s a hard thing for people to grasp, but the number of cases we have right now and even those tragic figures you just read are going to seem minuscule in a week. The number of cases we will have will double every three days. Right now, it’s exceeding that. And we have a large number of cases that are untested still. So with all due respect to your other guest, there’s not a governor in the country that’s waiting for the federal government right now. They are all acting. What they need is coordination because we have, believe it or not, we have masks, we have a lot of these things. Guess where they are. They’re sitting in the supply chain, people are profiteering off of them, or they’re going to places where people are hoarding them. That happens in a crisis. It’s only by someone looking through the entire system and seeing where those needs are, that you can say, stop hoarding them all in Texas, we need them in New York right now while we build manufacturing capability and put them in Texas. What your other guest is suggesting here is not helpful. We need a great partnership between the federal and state government.”
That caused Fugate to pull out his earpiece and say, “I don’t have time to listen to bullshit, people.”
Tur said, “Craig, you want to sit down and respond to this? I guess Craig has left. Andy, he doesn’t agree with you at all.”
Slavitt said, “I guess not. Look, these are trying times, and everyone is trying their best, and I know Craig is. I don’t know Craig personally, but I’m sure he’s working as hard and trying his best. Everybody is. These are unprecedented times. So [it is] understandable that he’s frustrated.”
Tur said, “Can we see if we can get Craig back? I’d like him to respond. I never like to leave a conversation like that.”
Fugate did not return.
UPDATE: Fugate apologized on Twitter
Dear @MSNBC , @KatyTurNBC At the point I’m not helping, time to step back. Never was good at the talking head thing anyway. This is too critical of a time to let emotions get in the way. My apologies to you and your audience.
— Craig (@WCraigFugate) March 19, 2020
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