The headlines about the federal commission looking into the oil spill are about the failures of the Obama administration. But, I want to know where are the apologies from the media and Rep. Markey?
If you ask the person on the street what BP did wrong, one of the top items on the list would be “they vastly underestimated the amount of the spill.” I pointed out repeatedly that, wait, BP is operating under Unified Command authority and Unified Command has responsibility for reporting all response information including spill volume. I checked numerous media reports and everyone blamed BP–using it as evidence that BP was lying, cheating, no-good, profit-mongering and all that. Only one had it right: factcheck.org.
The oil spill commission report clearly identifies the federal government as responsible for the initial spill volume. Certainly, they got the information from BP. And certainly there was pressure from the media to provide the best information they had. And they did. I find no fault with either BP or Unified Command in providing it–although clearly they should have couched it in much stronger terms about a very initial estimate which could be much higher. I do find fault with the media, pundits and social media commenters who used this inaccurate estimate as a means of trashing BP.
Here’s what the esteemed representative from Massachusetts said:
“It is clear that, from the beginning, BP has not been straightforward with the government or the American people about the true size of this spill. Now the families living and working in the Gulf are suffering from their incompetence,” he added.
I’d like to ask Rep. Markey and all those who joined his chorus how they would estimate spill volume in those early days. I’d also like to ask if they think, given the oil commission report, if they think they might owe BP an apology.
I’d also like to ask that of all the reporters, editors, broadcasters and bloggers who were so eager to jump on this error as evidence of BP’s incompetence and evil character. Why are they not jumping up now to say, we screwed up?
The Commission report does make a very important point about the mistaken volume amount: “the loss of public trust during a disaster is not an incidental public relations problem. The absence of trust fuels public fears, and those fears in turn can cause major harm…”
That’s a statement that should be tattooed on every response leader’s forehead–or at least memorized.