Presented By
Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood in Season 3 of House of Cards
David Giesbrecht—Netflix

There’s nothing new about Washington-based shows being a tad unrealistic (Hello, Scandal!) but the latest twist in House of Cards pushed one federal agency to clear the air.

In the Netflix show’s third season, released last week, President Frank Underwood decides to (spoiler alert!) twist the meaning of the Stafford Act, a real-life law that deals with disaster relief efforts.

So, yeah, pushing someone in front of a Metro train, it’s not. But the plot arc is a way of looking at how modern presidents push the limits of their executive authority. (If you’re a Democrat, think George W. Bush on torture. If you’re a Republican, think Barack Obama on immigration.)

That’s because, rather than use the law to address victims of hurricanes and tornadoes, Underwood decides that “unemployment” is a national emergency and (spoiler alert!) reappropriates money slated for natural disasters to a jobs program.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which handles disaster relief, took to Twitter on Monday to make clear that this is a Hollywood idea and not something it’d be down with:

FEMA might be forgiven for being a little skittish. Only a few years ago, talk-show host Glenn Beck was telling his listeners that the agency was building internment camps.

More Must-Reads From TIME

Contact us at

You May Also Like