FEMA Director, Michael Brown, was criticized when he stated that he was not aware there were refugees in the Convention Center until September 1, three days after Hurricane Katrina hit, when Brian Williams, of NBC Nightly News, asked Mr. Brown a question about them live on the Nightly News.
On September 2, CNN's Soledad O'Brien asked FEMA Director Mike Brown, "How is it possible that we're getting better info than you were getting... we were showing live pictures of the people outside the Convention Center... also we'd been reporting that officials had been telling people to go to the Convention Center... I don't understand how FEMA cannot have this information." When pressed, Brown reluctantly admitted he had learned about the starving crowds at the Convention Center from news media reports.
O'Brien then said to Brown, "FEMA's been on the ground four days, going into the fifth day, why no massive air drop of food and water... in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, they got food drops two days after the tsunami."
Later, Michael Brown admitted that he had virtually no experience in emergency management when he was appointed to the position by President Bush two years prior to Katrina. And, in fact he had limited authority to order federal agencies into action until about 36 hours after the storm hit, when Chertoff designated him as the "principal federal official" in charge of the storm. Chertoff was the one with the authority. "" President Bush recognized this and commended Michael Brown and gave him credit for the good work he had done, "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job. The FEMA Director is working 24 – they're working 24 hours a day."
On September 9, Chertoff recalled Brown to Washington and removed him from the immediate supervision of the Hurricane Katrina relief effort, and replaced him with Vice Admiral Thad W. Allen, chief of staff of the United States Coast Guard. Three days later, on September 12, Brown resigned his position, stating, "As I told the president, it is important that I leave now to avoid further distraction from the ongoing mission of FEMA."