This morning, Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), the ranking member of the House Energy committee, apologized to BP CEO Tony Hayward for what he called the "$20 billion shakedown" of the company by the Obama administration. Huffington Post's Sam Stein reported:
"I'm ashamed of what happened in the White House yesterday," said Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.) during a hearing on Thursday morning with BP's CEO Tony Hayward." I think it is a tragedy in the first proportion that a private corporation can be subjected to what I would characterize as a shakedown -- in this case a $20 billion shakedown -- with the attorney general of the United States, who is legitimately conducting a criminal investigation and has every right to do so to protect the American people, participating in what amounts to a $20 billion slush fund that's unprecedented in our nation's history, which has no legal standing, which I think sets a terrible precedent for our nation's future."
"I'm only speaking for myself. I'm not speaking for anyone else, but I apologize," Barton added. "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 "shakedown" that Barton referred to is the $20 billion escrow account negotiated between the Obama administration and BP to pay for damages resulting from the oil spill. Several members of the GOP have rushed to distance themselves from Barton's comments, with Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL) actually calling for Barton to resign his committee post.
If you thought nobody could possibly defend Barton's apology to BP, then let me introduce you to the conservative blogosphere.
Noted hack Jim Hoft agreed with Barton, writing, "Of course it was a shakedown. It's the Chicago way." Hoft added "well said, Congressman." JammieWearingFool wrote: "Let's hear it for Rep. Joe Barton." Regarding White House press secretary Robert Gibbs' denunciation of Barton's comments, JWF wrote: "Aww, the poor babies can't handle the truth."
These defenses of Barton arrived on the heels of several conservative media figures leaping to BP's defense by claiming that Obama is "demonizing" the company.
As my colleague Oliver Willis remarked to me after Barton's apology: "Sorry, BP, that we got our dirty ocean water in your oil."
Now that Barton has apologized for his apology, it will be interesting to see how Hoft and JWF try to spin things. After all, JWF said Barton's words were "the truth," and Hoft declared that Barton's words were "well said" and specifically praised Barton's use of the term "shakedown." Per his apology, Barton disagrees that his words were "well said":
"I apologize for using the term 'shakedown' with regard to yesterday's actions at the White House in my opening statement this morning, and I retract my apology to BP," Barton said.