Allison Askey found an oil-covered cloth on Pensacola Beach, Florida. (Marice Cohn Band/Miami Herald/MCT).

After soiling the Gulf, BP takes a public relations dive

By John Toth
The Bulletin

There have been thousands of stories written and photographs taken to bring you the tragedy that is playing out in the Gulf of Mexico, so I decided to switch gears and not run a photo of a bird soaked in oil.
Instead, I will try to elaborate on the BP oil spill and subsequent BP public relations disaster by using a photo that sends the same message in a different form (although I am not altogether convinced the photographer didn’t stick that oily rag in Allison’s hand just so he could take her picture).
If BP’s technical knowledge is as refined as its public relations skills, then that hole one mile under the Gulf will be leaking for a long time. This company comes across as a public relations disaster area.
BP CEO Tony Hayward may not know how to fix the hole, but he sure knows how to stick his foot into his mouth.
Remember when he talked about wanting his life back? That created quite a stir. While he was saying that, hundreds of thousands of people along the Gulf Coast affected by the spill were wondering how they’ll get their lives back to the way it was before the spill.
Then some goofy Swedish suit comes out of the White House meeting and starts talking about small people. I know there is a language barrier, but what a poor choice of words, considering that Hayward already made sure with his words that everybody hates the BP brass.
Everybody, of course, except for Texas Republican Congressman Joe Barton, who felt an urge to apologize to BP on national TV for the way they were “shaken down” by the White House.
“I’m only speaking for myself. I’m not speaking for anyone else, but I apologize,” Barton said. “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.”
The Republicans and Democrats were so taken back by this remark that the GOP leadership forced him to go back to the microphone and apologize for the apology.
Back to Hayward. Was he sweating it out during that all-day hearing last week, or what? How many ways can one person say “I don’t recall?” He looked like he would give anything to get the heck out of the hearing room, but there he was for a full day. Everybody was mean to him … except for Barton.
So, now BP is coughing up at least $20 billion to help take care of all this mess, and perhaps more. I’m glad BP got “shaken down.” I’m glad that Hayward and the other suits are running for cover. What BP did is inexcusable and will alter the Gulf Coast for decades to come, perhaps some parts of it forever.
So, do you think photographer Marice stuck that oily rag in Allison’s hand? No way. I was just kidding.
Now I’m in trouble. Maybe I should have used the oily bird picture. No. Too sad. My heart sinks every time I see it. That rag is really oily.