On Thursday afternoon, Texas Republican Congressman Joe Barton issued an apology for telling BP CEO Tony Hayword that the Obama administration's actions to hold the oil giant accountable in the wake of the Gulf Coast oil spill was a "shakedown" -- a characterization that sparked a firestorm of criticism from Democratic and Republican lawmakers alike.
"I want the record to be absolutely clear that I think BP is responsible for this accident, should be held responsible, and should in every way do everything possible to make good on the consequences that have resulted from this accident," Barton said later in the day during the committee hearing. "And if anything I said this morning has been misconstrued in an opposite effect, I want to apologize for that misconstruction."
Later in the day, Barton issued a statement in which the Texas Republican apologized "for using the term 'shakedown' with regard to yesterday's actions at the White House" and retracted his "apology to BP."
Here's the full text of Barton's statement:
"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."
HuffPost's Sam Stein reports on the controversial comments made by Barton to Hayword earlier in day at a hearing on Capitol Hill where the BP oil chief was testifying about the company's role in the massive spill:
"I'm ashamed of what happened in the White House yesterday," said Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.) during a hearing on Thursday morning with BP's CEO Tony Hayward." I think it is a tragedy in the first proportion that a private corporation can be subjected to what I would characterize as a shakedown -- in this case a $20 billion shakedown -- with the attorney general of the United States, who is legitimately conducting a criminal investigation and has every right to do so to protect the American people, participating in what amounts to a $20 billion slush fund that's unprecedented in our nation's history, which has no legal standing, which I think sets a terrible precedent for our nation's future."
"I'm only speaking for myself. I'm not speaking for anyone else, but I apologize," Barton added. "I do not want to live in a county where anytime a citizen or a corporation does something that is legitimately wrong, [it is] subject to some sort of political pressure that, again, in my words, amounts to a shakedown."
Airing criticisms against the notion of forcing BP to fork over $20 billion in liability revenue would seem like a fairly risky proposition considering just how reviled the oil giant is in the current political environment. And Democrats quickly jumped on the congressman's remark, as well as those from other Republicans, as evidence of a lack of sensitivity for the victims of the spill.