The Federal Emergency Management Agency said yesterday that one of its regional directors acted independently last November when he encouraged state emergency directors in his area to purchase an anti-nuclear freeze film produced by a conservative group and show it to civic clubs.
Agency spokesman Russell Clanahan said FEMA has a policy against endorsing "political films," but he stopped short of directly criticizing Jerry Stephens, who last year was appointed director of FEMA's five-state Region 6 in the Southwest. Instead, Clanahan said, "It would appear that there was a different interpretation" of agency policy "in this case."
Stephens was unavailable for comment, but his spokesman, Bill McAda, minimized the episode, saying Stephens "routinely" mails letters to state emergency directors suggesting films and books about civil defense, which is one of the agency's main responsibilities.
McAda said in the past Stephens had recommended materials that both supported and opposed a mutual freeze on nuclear arms by the United States and the Soviet Union. The House recently approved a watered-down resolution calling for a freeze, which President Reagan has said he will veto if it passes the Senate.
The Arkansas Gazette reported that Stephens had urged Arkansas officials to buy a 30-minute film, "Countdown for America," for $250 from the American Security Council Foundation. The newspaper said Stephens recommended the film without viewing it himself and ended his letter by saying: "The U.S. has tried a nuclear freeze since 1967. It has not worked."
The film argues that Soviet arms are superior to U.S. weaponry, and concludes that the best way to ensure world peace is through a buildup of nuclear weapons in this country.
When Stephens finally viewed the film, the newspaper said, he decided its ending was not appropriate. He told the paper that he had instructed state officials not to show the end of the film, but officials questioned by the Gazette said they had not received any such order.