Via a slightly-jealous reader (guess who), this has to be one of the more notable moments in spoofing history:
Masquerading as Rene Oswin, an official at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Bichlbaum followed Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin to the lectern Monday morning at the Pontchartrain Center in Kenner.
In a speech to attendees of the Gulf Coast Reconstruction and Hurricane Preparedness Summit, he laid out grandiose plans for HUD to reverse course.
[…] “Everything is going to change about the way we work, and the change is going to start here today in New Orleans,” the man said during his speech.
[…] In his speech, Bichlbaum said the department’s mission was to ensure affordable housing is available for those who need it.
“This year, in New Orleans, I’m ashamed to say we have failed,” he said.
To change that, HUD would reverse its plans to demolish 5,000 units “of perfectly good public housing,” with housing in the city in tight supply, he said.
Former occupants have been “begging to move back in,” he said. “We’re going to help them to do that.”
The government’s practice had been to tear down public housing where it could, because such projects were thought to cause crime and unemployment, he said.
But crime rates in the city are at a record high and there is no evidence that people in the projects are more likely to be unemployed, he said.
The man added that it also would be essential to create conditions for prosperity.
Toward that end, he said, Wal-Mart would withdraw its stores from near low-income housing and “help nurture local businesses to replace them.”
This reminds me of a hare-brained plot some, uh, friends of mine hatched in college to sneak onto the main campus of Focus on the Family and mark the main building facing the highway with a giant pink triangle and the words ‘This is a Hate-Free Zone,” which was a popular dorm poster at the time. Of course the amusement would come when they angrily denied it. Going back to the story:
In Washington, HUD spokeswoman Donna White called the hoax “sick.”
“This announcement is totally false; it’s totally bogus,” said Donna White in Washington.
[…]Jackson, White said, had never planned to address the meeting. “I don’t even want to refer to it as a joke,” White said. “At this point, it’s not funny.”
Odds are good that at this point most Louisianians like the fake government a lot better than the real government.