Gulf oil spill: BP airs apologetic TV spots
As protest groups planned anti-BP demonstrations in 50 cities and BP's stock price tanked, the beleaguered oil giant launched an advertising campaign to apologize for its massive contamination of the spill in the Gulf of Mexico. "The gulf spill is a tragedy that never should have happened," BP Chief Executive Tony Hayward says in TV commercials that began airing on national television Thursday.
"BP has taken full responsibility for cleaning up the spill in the gulf," he says. "We've helped organize the largest environmental response in this country's history. More than 2 million feet of boom, 30 planes and over 1,300 boats are working to protect the shoreline. Where oil reaches the shore, thousands of people are ready to clean it up. We will honor all legitimate claims. And our cleanup efforts will not come at any cost to taxpayers.
"To those affected and your families, I am deeply sorry. The gulf is home for thousands of BP's employees, and we all feel the impact. To all the volunteers and for the strong support of the government, thank you. We know it is our responsibility to keep you informed. And do everything we can so this never happens again. We will get this done. We will make this right."
BP also took out full-page ads of apology in several daily newspapers. The company is still struggling to stanch the catastrophic flow of oil resulting from the April 20 blowout of its deep-water well.
Hayward's earnest appeal in the TV ads contrasted with the flippant tone of a remark he made to reporters Sunday, saying he "would like his life back" from the spill. Fishermen and other Gulf Coast residents expressed anger at his complaint, so he issued an apology on BP's Facebook page Wednesday.
"I made a hurtful and thoughtless comment on Sunday when I said that 'I wanted my life back,'" Hayward wrote. "When I read that recently, I was appalled. I apologize, especially to the families of the 11 men who lost their lives in this tragic accident. Those words don't represent how I feel about this tragedy, and certainly don't represent the hearts of the people of BP -- many of whom live and work in the gulf -- who are doing everything they can to make things right. My first priority is doing all we can to restore the lives of the people of the gulf region and their families -- to restore their lives, not mine."
Speculation, especially in the British press, is rampant as to whether Hayward will be forced to resign in the wake of the London-based company's inability to stop the leak and revelations about technical problems leading up to the blowout.
BP’s shares have fallen more than 35% since the April 20 accident, which killed 11 workers. On Thursday, BP was trading at about $39 a share, down from nearly $61 on April 20.
A protest and mock arrest of Hayward has been scheduled for Friday outside the company’s Washington office. The consumer advocacy group Public Citizen is staging the event along with several other groups.
The 50-city protest, organized by a group called Seize BP, is scheduled for Thursday through Saturday.
Photo: Tony Hayward, BP's chief executive, tours his oil company's cleanup operations in Port Fourchon, La. Credit: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times