BP phone operator: ‘We’re just a diversion to keep them from getting to corporate’

By John Byrne
Monday, June 14, 2010 9:19 EDT
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An expose at a local Houston television station is sure to rile company critics when it enters the mainstream media: an operator at a BP phone bank has accused the company of setting them up as a diversion for anguished residents affected by the recent oil spill.

“We’re a diversion to stop them from really getting to the corporate office, to the big people,” claimed “Janice,” a pseudonym for an operator interviewed by Houston’s Channel 11.

The network adds:

The calls come in from around the world, but it’s the desperation of those on the Gulf Coast that has affected her the most.

“I don’t want to get emotional, but it’s so frustrating when these people live right there and nothing is being done to help them,” the operator said.

For weeks on end, twelve hours a day, there is a little secret that Janice says she has witnessed firsthand.

Because the operators believe the calls never get past them, some don’t even bother taking notes.

“And they just put down, type ‘blah blah blah.’ No information, just ‘blah blah blah,’” Janice admitted.

BP and US officials are also facing accusations that they’re inhibiting the media from covering elements of the spill, which began Apr. 20 after an offshore oil rig exploded and collapsed into the Gulf of Mexico. Raw Story’s Muriel Kane reported on this on Saturday.

In a video clip obtained by the liberal blog ThinkProgress, a local news team from WDSU in New Orleans was told by a private security guard that they were not allowed to talk to cleanup workers on a public beach or come within 100 yards of cleanup operations.

“Who’s saying that?” reporter Scott Walker asked the guard. “Because no one can tell me that, unless you’re the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office, you’re the Coast Guard, or you’re the military, can you tell me where to go on this public beach.”

“I can tell you where to go because I’m employed to keep this beach safe,” the guard replied, adding, “You are not allowed to interview any workers.”

CNN’s Jim Acosta similarly reported on Thursday that his efforts to film attempts by the Louisiana Fish and Wildlife Service to rescue oil-covered birds had been blocked, even though his news team had received permission from the state Fish and Wildlife Service to enter the bird triage center.

“I’m going to have to ask you to stop taking pictures,” a National Guardsman told them.

“It’s more important for the animals to have a quiet, calm, controlled area at this point,” a Fish and Wildlife Service representative insisted when asked for an explanation.

CNN’s Anderson Cooper also recounted being “prevented by federal wildlife officials from photographing birds covered in oil being brought ashore. … They actually now have this area where the birds come in roped off and guarded by National Guard troops.”

With earlier reporting by Muriel Kane.

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