Former BP CEO Tony Hayward was famously sent forth to "get his life back," and was replaced by Bob Dudley, in an effort to put a new face on BP's response to that time they destroyed the Gulf of Mexico. But based on Dudley's current take on the matter, I think it's fair to say that if you grafted his face onto the head of an Appaloosa, you wouldn't be able to tell if he was coming or going. Here's Dudley, as reported by Reuters, today:
BP's new chief executive said its rivals and the media had helped cause a climate of fear during the summer when the oil giant's blown-out Gulf of Mexico well caused the worst ever oil spill in the United States.
The comments represented the latest volley in BP's battle to rebuild its battered reputation by taking a harder line with those who have blamed the disaster on a safety culture at BP that, they said, put cost-saving before safety.
Of course, blaming the media is a tried-and-true tactic of every scoundrel-loser who's ever stalked the world of politics. But when it comes to building climates of fear, nothing beats the way BP inhibited the work of reporters with the full force of spooky clampdown tactics. They stopped them from documenting the effects of the oil spill on the local ecosystem. They kept them from talking to clean-up workers. They teamed up with local police to harass and detain reporters and activists. At every turn, legit reporters were given the runaround, and threatened with fines and jail time.
Meanwhile, the company dispatched their own PR professionals to the region to deceive and inveigle and obfuscate, all while treating concerned locals to a public face that was a "diversion" by design.
Reporters from local television stations and area newspapers offered their audience high-performance muckraking. Joined by the Associated Press and great national reporters like Mother Jones' Mac McClelland, Bloomberg's Lizzie O'Leary, and The Upshot's Brett Michael Dykes, these folks actually labored hard to penetrate the apparatus of fear and intimidation that BP themselves had erected. But soon after the well was capped, these voices got occluded by a national media that was quick to give BP an assist and declare that the oil had miraculously vanished. Not soon after, I got a tweet from O'Leary that simply read, "I know where the oil is." I believe she does, even to this day, but she can take a break from her shift because, courtesy of the New Orleans Times-Picayune here's pictures of oil all over the Gulf of Mexico for everyone to see with their own eyes.
Dudley also has some pretty harsh things to say about U.S. lawmakers:
Dudley also thanked the British government for its "stalwart support" in the face of harsh attacks from U.S. lawmakers during the crisis. "At the height of the crisis it made a big difference knowing we had such good friends at home," the U.S.-born Dudley said.
I feel almost wounded, watching Dudley throw the United States government under the bus like that! How soon does Dudley forget that the White House offered up all sorts of optimistic talk about the oil spill. And when the Associated Press' Michael Oreskes sent the White House a letter, imploring them to help end BP's media clampdown, the request fell on reliably deaf ears. So Dudley is being really very unfair!
Of course, the central job of any BP executive circa now is to cast doubt on the oil spill estimates, so that the company's legal liability can be as limited as possible. Dudley, as it turns out, may be better at this than his predecessor:
Dudley's comments on Monday echoed those he made early in the 87-day crisis during a television interview, when he said scientists who argued the well was gushing up to 70,000 barrels per day (bpd) were "scaremongering."
At the time, Dudley said the "best estimate" of the flow rate was 5,000 [barrels per day].
A government panel later put the flow rate at 62,000 [barrels per day].
I hate to "scaremonger," but this is where we've really, really gotten screwed. But, yeah, definitely blame the media for creating a "climate of fear."