Former FEMA administrator Craig Fugate was so exasperated during an MSNBC appearance that he tore out his earpiece and walked off the set in the middle of the interview.
Fugate, who ran FEMA from 2009 to 2017 under former President Obama, spoke about the federal government’s involvement in dealing with the response to the coronavirus crisis during his discussion Thursday with MSNBC host Katy Tur and Andy Slavitt, Obama’s former acting administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
“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. I think we’re slow to this, now we’re playing catch-up. That’s the worst position to be in,” he said.
“And the whole thing about having a single person in charge, I’m going to call B.S. on it. I strongly disagree. That becomes a single point of failure,” Fugate added.
“There are governors that are ramping things up across the country, but they’re taking different steps than other governors. This is a virus that is not respecting state lines. How can you have a coordinated response if you don’t have it coordinated from the very top?” Tur asked.
“The myth of a single person in charge taking control and running this is a myth,” Fugate replied.
“This is going to be dealt with on the front lines and local and state levels, and each state is going to be addressing this unique to their systems,” he added.“I’ve always believed the best way the federal government can support our 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 the question, why are we not looking at idle capabilities now and governors go contract for that? Why wait for the federal government?”
But Slavitt chimed in with his disagreement, advocating for more federal involvement in the response tot he pandemic.
“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,” he said.
“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,” Slavitt contended, calling for “a great partnership between the federal and state government.”
This apparently set Fugate off.
“I don’t have time to listen to this bullsh**, people,” he said, removing his earpiece and promptly walking off the MSNBC set.
“Craig, you want to sit down and respond to this?” stunned host Katy Tur asked. “I guess Craig has left.”
“I don’t know Craig personally, but I’m sure he’s working as hard as anyone and trying his best,” Slavitt said. “Everybody is. These are unprecedented times, so understandable that he’s frustrated.”
Tur later apologized for the heated exchange and called Fugate a “stellar” FEMA administrator. She also commented on Twitter, saying “we hope to have him back.”
We have always valued and appreciated @WCraigFugate’s time and expertise. Tensions are obviously very high. We hope to have him back. We need people who know how things work now more than ever.
— Katy Tur (@KatyTurNBC) March 19, 2020
Slavitt agreed and tweeted that he “certainly didn’t mean to upset him & extend an apology,” adding, “Tense times.”
Both former Obama officials later buried the hatchet on Twitter.
Craig my sincere apologies for contributing this. Please keep informing people as you do. You’re a terrific public servant. We’re on the same team. Andy
— Andy Slavitt @ 🏡 (@ASlavitt) March 19, 2020
Twitter users reacted to the surprising turn of events on the air.
Craig Fugate is a real pro. He was my state’s emergency management head, then the nation’s. He was there to say what states need to do.
I don’t know who the other guy is.
— 💙 Your Neighbor ☮ Stardust Fiddlesticks (@TweepOut) March 19, 2020
What did he expect? That’s MSNBC’s brand!
— Dan Treppil (@DanTreppil) March 19, 2020
That’s an Obama official walking off of MSNBC
— Gerard Kane (@nyjerrykane) March 19, 2020
That’s what happens when the “news” encourages combative, argumentative confrontations. That’s not news, it’s sport. And for a serious person it’s a waste of valuable time. Kudos to him for not playing their silly game.
— LoneWolf907 (@LoneWolf907) March 19, 2020
@WCraigFugate speaks for all of us. Stop the bullshit, report the facts.
— Rosie memos (@almostjingo) March 19, 2020
The media would be a lot better if more guests did just this.
— Sentient Russian Bot. (@exrusskibot) March 19, 2020
This is my happy place for today.
— Lunchbucket its time for coffee (@LunchbucketEcon) March 19, 2020
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