Saturday, June 19, 2010
On the same day tar balls of oil washed up on Pensacola Beach, BP’s chief Tony Hayward spent Saturday attending a glitzy yacht event near England’s Isle of Wight and sail his yacht, the Bob.
And as bloggers and social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook exploded with outrage, BP spokespeople rushed to defend Hayward from the big meanie Americans.
Hayward, who has drawn withering criticism as the public face of BP’s failure to halt the worst oil spill in U.S. history, was demoted as CEO Friday, following his less than stellar appearance before the U.S. Congress.
Robert Wine, a BP spokesman at the company’s Houston headquarters, said it was the first break that Hayward has had since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded April 20, killing 11 workers and setting off the undersea oil gusher.
“He’s spending a few hours with his family at a weekend. I’m sure that everyone would understand that,” Wine said Saturday. “He will be back to deal with the response. It doesn’t detract from that at all.”
Wine described the race as “one of the biggest sailing events in the world and he’s well known to have a keen interest in it.”
The image of Hayward hobnobbing with millionaires and their yachts is likely to anger people along the Gulf, who are struggling to fight a war against as much as 120 million gallons of oil. Oil has washed up along the Gulf Coast from Louisiana to Florida, killing birds, fish, turtles and porpoises, and suffocating delicate marshes and wetlands and covering pristine beaches with tar balls of oil.
Hayward already angered many in the U.S. when he was quoted in the Times of London as suggesting that Americans were particularly likely to file bogus liability claims. He later shocked residents in Louisiana by telling them that no one wanted to resolve the crisis as badly as he did because “I’d like my life back.”