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Ex-FEMA chief: Obama using oil spill to his advantage

By Kristi Keck, CNN
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Ex-FEMA chief vs. Obama administration
  • Ex-FEMA chief Michael Brown: Obama wants to use spill to advance policy
  • Brown: "They want a crisis like this ... to shut down offshore and gas drilling
  • To back up claims, Brown points to Obama interview in 2008 on cap-and-trade
  • White House press secretary blasts Fox News for "unique interview" with Brown

(CNN) -- Former FEMA director Michael Brown is not backing off his charge that the Obama administration wants to use the Gulf Coast oil spill as a plot to put an end to offshore drilling.

"They want a crisis like this, so that they can use a crisis like this to shut down offshore and gas drilling," he said Tuesday night on CNN's "AC 360°."

His remarks came a day after he told Fox News' "Your World with Neil Cavuto" that the oil slick is "exactly what they want, because now he can pander to the environmentalists and say, 'I'm going to shut it down because it's too dangerous.' While Mexico and China and everybody else drills in the Gulf, we're going to get shut down."

Pressed by CNN for evidence to back up his claim, Brown pointed to an interview that then-Sen. Barack Obama gave to The San Francisco Chronicle in January 2008. Obama told the Chronicle editorial board that he wanted cap-and-trade legislation to be as strong as possible.

"So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can. It's just that it will bankrupt them because they're going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that's being emitted," Obama told the board, after discussing the importance of figuring out how to use coal without emitting greenhouse gases.

Brown told CNN that he didn't mean to imply the administration wanted the slick to spread, but he suggested that the White House was exaggerating the ramifications of the spill by claiming the damage would last forever.

"Look, when you have an administration who is leading the country, and their political position is that we want to move away from a carbon-based energy supply to something else, this crisis occurs, the Rahm Emanuel rule No. 1 of never letting a crisis go to waste kicks in, and they have done that," Brown said.

At the daily White House news briefing on Tuesday, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs slammed Fox's "very special and unique interview" with Brown, which he said "didn't appear to be pushed back on real hard."

Gibbs' criticism came after Fox News reporter Wendell Goler started to ask a question about critics referring to the spill as Obama's "Katrina."

"Can I say this?," Gibbs interrupted. "You opened both the double doors and, voilà, here I am."

Goler pointed out that the networks' reporters and television personalities are not one in the same.

"You should call headquarters, my friend," Gibbs said. "Ask for somebody who makes the decisions to put people like that -- because I've got to tell you, Wendell, I'm not entirely sure that a factual answer that I might give to any one of your questions is going to change the notion that your network put out the former FEMA director to make an accusation that the well had been purposely set off in order to change an offshore drilling decision."

Brown headed FEMA under the Bush administration and resigned in September 2005, two weeks after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast. His resignation came 10 days after President Bush famously told him, "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job."