Michael Brown: Obama let oil spill get worse on purpose

By Diana Sweet
Tuesday, May 4, 2010 9:42 EDT
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UPDATE (at bottom): White House hits back at Fox News’s ‘very special and unique interview’ with Brown

Michael Brown, former President George W. Bush’s infamous FEMA chief, claimed yesterday that President Obama is using the Gulf oil spill to play politics. And he went further: he said Obama waited for the oil spill to worsen so he could shut down offshore drilling.

“This is exactly what they want, because now he can pander to the environmentalists and say, ‘I’m gonna shut it down because it’s too dangerous,’” Brown told Fox’s Neil Cavuto. “This president has never supported Big Oil, he’s never supported offshore drilling, and now he has an excuse to shut it back down.”

Brown’s comments ring strange because Obama actually announced earlier this year that he was expanding the allowed zones for offshore work, much to the consternation of his supporters. The former Bush official resigned in the wake of his tepid response to Hurricane Katrina and questions about his resume.

Brown isn’t the only one making waves with his comments during the Gulf spill.

In a 30-minute speech to a Republican crowd in Kansas City Saturday, onetime Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin dubbed the gulf spill “very tragic,” but added: “I want our country to be able to trust the oil industry.”

Writing in the Kansas City Star, reporter Steve Kraske summed up her remarks as, “She said the U.S. must wean itself from foreign oil in order to be truly free.”

“We’ve got to tap domestically because energy security will be the key to our prosperity,” Palin remarked.

Brown’s comments are available in the following video, uploaded by the liberal watchdog group MediaMatters.

UPDATE: White House hits back at Fox News’s ‘very special and unique interview’ with Brown

At Tuesday’s White House press briefing, a Fox News reporter asked press secretary Robert Gibbs to respond to “critics” who’ve accused the Obama administration of purposefully detonating an oil rig in order to shut down further offshore drilling. He was not amused.

“I watched Fox yesterday,” Gibbs said, his expression shifting from cordial to agitated. “Fox had the very special and unique interview with Michael Brown — you opened it and I had to do it — who, for those who weren’t let in on the big secret, Mr. Brown, FEMA director Brown under Katrina, intimated on Fox and wasn’t, I would editorially say, didn’t appear to be pushed back on real hard — that this spill was leaked on purpose in order for us to walk back our environmental and drilling decisions and that the leak that we did on purpose got out of control and now is too big to contain.”

Gibbs sparred with the Fox News reporter and suggested that he should “call headquarters” and ask why the network would seemingly promote such a theory without offering a stern counter-point.

“I’m not entirely sure 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 purposefully set off in order to change an offshore drilling decision,” he said.

This video is from The White House, broadcast May 4, 2010.

David Edwards and Stephen C. Webster contributed to this report.

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