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During BET Telethon, Former President Clinton Expresses Concern With Government Response to Hurricane Katrina

Clinton Says Congress Should Consider "Reorganizing" FEMA with "Qualified" Director

NEW YORK, Sept. 10 /PRNewswire/ -- 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, BET.com and a host of radio stations across the country, viewers and listeners called a designated toll-free phone number, logged on to BET.com or used special wireless access to make financial pledges to the Red Cross relief efforts.


BET, a subsidiary of Viacom, Inc. (NYSE:VIA) (NYSE:and) (NYSE:VIA.B) , is the nation's leading television network providing quality entertainment, music, news and public affairs programming for the African-American audience. The BET Network reaches more than 80 million households according to Nielsen media research, and can be seen in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean. BET is a dominant consumer brand in the urban marketplace with a diverse group of branded businesses: BET.com, the Number 1 Internet portal for African Americans; BET Digital Networks - BET Jazz, BET Gospel and BET Hip Hop, attractive alternatives for cutting-edge entertainment tastes; BET Event Productions, specializing in a full range of event production services, including event management, venue selection, talent recruitment, sound, lighting and stage production; and BET Books, the nation's leading publisher of African-American themed romance novels under the Arabesque imprint which also publishes compelling fiction under the Sepia imprint and inspirational fiction and nonfiction under the New Spirit imprint.

Source: BET (Black Entertainment Television)

CONTACT: Michael Lewellen of BET (Black Entertainment Television),
+1-202-608-2003, Michael.Lewellen@BET.net

Web site: http://www.bet.com/

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