Congressman: I wasn’t really asking BP executive to ‘commit harakiri’

By Muriel Kane
Wednesday, June 16, 2010 13:52 EDT
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A Louisiana member of Congress has made waves with his suggestion to a BP executive that he might respond to the ongoing oil disaster in the Gulf by committing ritual suicide.

Rep. Anh “Joseph” Cao (R-LA) has since stated that he wasn’t serious and that his remark just “shows my level of frustration with BP.”

BP America President Lamar McKay, who appeared on Tuesday before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, had just faced a demand from Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL) that he should resign when Cao offered a stronger alternative.

“The oil disaster has caused great economic impact to my district,” Cao began. “Hundreds of businesses have closed, thousands are out of work. Mr Stearns asked Mr. McKay to resign. Well, in the Asian culture we do things differently. During the Samurai days, we would give you a knife and ask you to commit harakiri.”

“”My constituents are still debating on what they want me to ask you to do,” continued Cao. “But with that being said, the cleanup process has been a disgrace. The claims process has been dismal.”

According to the Times-Picayune, “Cao’s novel suggestion was met with a smattering of laughter, but mostly a stunned silence.”

Cao has since detailed his thought processes to the Times-Picayune which explains that as he was listening to Stearns demanding McKay’s resignation, Cao “thought about all the suffering in his district, about how if McKay resigned he would still be a millionaire, about the two Vietnamese fishers he talked to who were so distraught about what the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is doing to their livelihood they were contemplating suicide. So when his turn finally arrived to ask questions at Tuesday’s hearing of the House Subcommittee on Energy and Environment, Cao said what was on his mind.”

Cao, a naturalized Vietnamese-American whose district includes New Orleans, first became involved in politics after Hurricane Katrina, when a group of Vietnamese-Americans protested plans to put a landfill in their neighborhood. In 2008, he was elected to Congress by narrowly defeating the scandal-plagued William Jefferson in what has for over a century been an overwhelmingly Democratic district. Since then, he has had to tread a fine line between his constituents and the national Republican Party.

According to Politico, Cao’s and Stearns’ willingness to diverge from many of the Republican colleagues on the BP issue has “revealed new divisions in a Republican conference that has for years shown remarkable unity in messaging on oil policy. … [Cao's] lashing out, along with Stearns’s call for McKay’s resignation, showed just how much Republicans are now struggling with how to show appropriate outrage at Big Oil while sticking to their long-standing pro-drilling, pro-oil-company policies.”

This video was posted at YouTube by FireDogLake on June 15, 2010.

Muriel Kane
Muriel Kane
Muriel Kane is an associate editor at Raw Story. She joined Raw Story as a researcher in 2005, with a particular focus on the Jack Abramoff affair and other Bush administration scandals. She worked extensively with former investigative news managing editor Larisa Alexandrovna, with whom she has co-written numerous articles in addition to her own work. Prior to her association with Raw Story, she spent many years as an independent researcher and writer with a particular focus on history, literature, and contemporary social and political attitudes. Follow her on Twitter at @Muriel_Kane
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