White House mocks BP CEO’s yacht race, defends Obama golf

By Agence France-Presse
Monday, June 21, 2010 10:47 EDT
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A White House spokesman mocked BP’s chief executive Monday for attending a luxury yacht race despite the oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, but then defended President Barack Obama’s own weekend golf game.

Tony Hayward, the British energy giant’s embattled chief, drew fire from the White House over the weekend for having gone to the yacht race Saturday off the Isle of Wight.

White House spokesman Bill Burton took him to task again on Monday, suggesting that Hayward take part in the cleanup operations in the Gulf of Mexico with the 300,000 euro yacht he co-owns.

“You know, look, if Tony Hayward wants to put a skimmer on that yacht and bring it down to the Gulf, we’d be happy to have his help,” Burton said to laughter in the White House briefing room.

“But what’s important isn’t what Tony Hayward’s doing in his free time; it’s what BP is doing to take… responsibility for the mess that they’ve made,” he said.

His comments echoed those of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel who called Hawyard’s decision to go to the yacht race “part of a long line of PR gaffes and mistakes.”

But when asked about Obama’s day Saturday, in particular his four hour golf game at a course near Washington, Burton said the president had the right to decompress a bit after a hard week.

“I don’t think that there’s a person in this country that doesn’t think that their president ought to have a little time to clear his mind,” Burton said.

“I think that a little time to himself on Father’s Day weekend probably does us all good as American citizens,” he said.

The Hill reports that “Obama played the 39th round of golf of his presidency” this weekend.

RNC chairman Michael Steele blasted Obama for the golf outings, the capitol hill newspaper noted.

“While it is fitting and appropriate to look at the yachting activities of the BP CEO with incredulity, it is equally incredible that President Obama finds himself on yet another golf course as oil continues to spew into the Gulf,” Steele said. “Until this problem is fixed, no more golf outings, no more baseball games, no more Beatle concerts, Mr. President. The stakes are too high for President Obama’s lackadaisical approach to both his responsibilities and the challenges we face.”

Obama went to a Washington Nationals game on Friday, and hosted a concert by Paul McCartney less than 3 weeks ago.

Former President George W. Bush publicly gave up the game of golf while in office, saying he didn’t think it was appropriate that he keep playing while troops were fighting in Iraq.

BP defends CEO’s yacht outing; says 2 billion dollars spent on spill

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana — BP revealed Monday it has so far spent two billion dollars on the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, after an internal BP document suggested the gusher might be spewing far faster than initially feared.

In a statement to the London Stock Exchange, the embattled British energy giant said its costs to date included ongoing efforts at containment, relief well drilling, grants to Gulf states, claims paid to affected individuals and businesses, and costs incurred by the US government.

The announcement comes after a week of White House arm-twisting that prodded BP to agree to a 20-billion-dollar fund to pay claims and a stepped up oil recovery effort in the Gulf.

Meanwhile on Sunday, US outrage was further heightened by the discovery that BP’s own worst-case scenario estimate of the amount of oil leaking into the Gulf of Mexico was some 20 times higher than its early public estimates.

Media reports that chief executive Tony Hayward had attended a yacht race off the Isle of Wight the day after he handed over day-to-day management of the oil leak response, also prompted one of the sharpest expressions yet of administration anger with BP.

“Well, to quote Tony Hayward, he’s got his life back, as he would say,” White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel said, referencing the BP boss’s now-notorious slip.

“And I think we can all conclude that Tony Hayward is not going to have a second career in PR (public relations) consulting,” Emanuel told ABC’s “This Week”.

“This has just been part of a long line of PR gaffes and mistakes.”

Emanuel then assailed BP for its response to the worst oil spill in US history, saying it must be forced to do more.

The company has been regularly faulted for the pace of its response to the disaster, triggered by the April 20 explosion that ripped through the Deepwater Horizon rig it leased, killing 11 workers.

Over the past week, the British energy giant has called in more ships and equipment to the area and said it would significantly boost the amount of oil captured from its busted well.

But a key US congressman Ed Markey, a vocal critic of BP and its handling of the disaster, tore into the firm after releasing an internal BP document that showed the energy giant’s own worst-case estimate of the leak was much higher than it publicly stated.

“First they said it was only 1,000 barrels, then they said it was 5,000 barrels, now we’re up to 100,000 barrels,” he told NBC’s “Meet the Press,” saying BP was “either lying or grossly incompetent.”

US government estimates now put the leak at 30,000 to 65,000 barrels a day — or, at the upper end of the scale, more than 2.5 million gallons of oil each day.

BP rejected Markey’s charge, noting that the conditions it had stated for the worst-case scenario to develop were not in place then, and are not in place now.

“It’s completely misrepresenting what we’re saying,” BP spokesman Robert Wine told AFP. “We were saying that if two conditions were met simultaneously — one that we got the modeling restrictions wrong and if the blowout preventer were removed — then we could have 100,000 barrels of oil.”

He said the estimate “has nothing (to do) with the amount of oil that’s actually escaping at the moment.”

BP also raced to defend Hayward’s yacht outing on vacation with his son in Britain, which a spokesman called his “first non-working day since this started.”

“Still, no matter where he is, he is always in touch with what is happening within BP,” another company spokesman John Curry said.

Asked about Hayward’s yacht outing, Senate Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said “all of these guys could use a better PR advisor, but the point is we need to get the oil leak stopped and keep as much of the oil off the shore as we can.”

“Clearly, not enough is being done. All the local officials on the Gulf are frustrated as they can be,” he told “Fox News Sunday.”

The spill has impacted 59 miles (95 kilometers) of Gulf Coast shoreline, mainly in Louisiana but also in the states of Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. More than one-third of federal waters in the Gulf are now closed to fishing.

In its statement on Monday, BP updated some of its response operations including operations to skim oil from the surface of the Gulf that have recovered in total about 558,000 barrels (23.4 million gallons) of oily liquid.

Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse
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