Hear that? That’s not the sound of oil coming out of a leaking pipe 5,000 feet underneath the ocean — that’s the sound of a raft traveling through rapids in the Grand Canyon.
And that’s the sound Interior Department Chief of Staff Tom Strickland was hearing with his wife as he coasted through river rapids while the worst oil spill to hit the US coast since Exxon Valdez neared shore off the coast of Louisiana.
“Strickland, who also serves as Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks, was in the Grand Canyon with his wife Beth for a total of three days, including one day of rafting,” ABC News’ Jake Tapper reported late Wednesday.
In his defense, one Obama Administration official offered Tapper a strange response — claiming that Strickland was on a work-focused trip with the director of the National Park Service and the Grand Canyon’s National Park Superintendant, discussing, among other things, “humpback chub.”
Concurrently, the unidentified official purportedly talked up Strickland’s conversations about “river flows, beach erosion, tamarisk control, overflights, safety, motor boats, and wilderness management.”
Nothing about oil, apparently.
Strickland and his wife reportedly departed for their trip to the Grand Canyon three days after the Gulf oil leaks were discovered. The report says that he was take out of the canyon by a Park Service helicopter.
One government official — who may have leaked Strickland’s trip to Tapper — said that “some Interior Department employees thought it was ‘irresponsible’ for Strickland to have gone on the trip, given the crisis in the Gulf, which was fully apparent at the time he departed for the Grand Canyon.”
The Interior Department oversees the Minerals Management Service, which is responsible for oil drilling oversight. It is run by former Democratic Sen. Ken Salazar of Colorado.