This morning's oil-spill hearing at the House Committee on Energy and Commerce featured Tony Hayward, BP's chief executive, apologizing deeply for the disaster in the Gulf. But Hayward received a surprising apology himself — from U.S. Rep. Joe Barton (R-Arlington/Ennis). Barton said that while he agreed that BP was clearly liable for damages, the $20 billion fund for spill victims announced yesterday after a meeting between President Obama and BP executives amounted to a "shakedown," with "no legal standing."
"I'm ashamed of what happened in the White House yesterday," Barton said. Later, he added: "I apologize. I do not want to live in a country where anytime a citizen or a corporation does something that is legitimately wrong is subject to some sort of political pressure, that is again, in my words, amounts to a shakedown. So I apologize."
Rep. Barton issued the following statement this afternoon, as Democrats bombarded him with criticism and House Republican leaders said his statements were "wrong":
"I apologize for using the term 'shakedown' with regard to yesterday’s actions at the White House in my opening statement this morning, and I retract my apology to BP. As I told my colleagues yesterday and said again this morning, BP should bear the full financial responsibility for the accident on their lease in the Gulf of Mexico. BP should fully compensate those families and businesses that have been hurt by this accident. BP and the federal government need to stop the leak, clean up the damage, and take whatever steps necessary to prevent a similar accident in the future.
"I regret the impact that my statement this morning implied that BP should not pay for the consequences of their decisions and actions in this incident."