Fox News' Gretchen Carlson falsely claimed that "international help has been offered, but not accepted" for the Gulf oil spill response, citing the Jones Act, which she speculated that President Obama has not waived because of union pressure. In fact, the National Incident Commander has repeatedly stated that foreign vessels are operating in the Gulf, that they have not yet "seen any need to waive the Jones Act," and that they are prepared to process case-by-case waivers if needed.
Carlson falsely claims "international help has been offered, but not accepted"
From the June 23 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
CARLSON: Meantime, international help has been offered, but not accepted. A lot of people are asking why. It's called the Jones Act, which prohibits international ships from operating in US ports. Our next guest says it's time to waive the outdated law.
CARLSON: Let's talk about this Jones Act waiver. So basically, what this means is that currently international ships cannot come into US waters, but doesn't this all boil down to a political discussion about unions?
REP. CHARLES DJOU (R-HI): Yes, you're absolutely right. This Jones Act is a 90-year-old anachronistic law. It is actually basically protectionist legislation that limits ships operating in U.S. waters to American-flagged vessels. You know, under normal circumstances perhaps there might be some justification for this. But with the situation in the Gulf, we need to stop the spill, we need to clean up the mess, and we need to do everything we can to hold BP accountable. There is no reason why we should leave an arrow in our quiver in this fight to clean up this mess in the Gulf. One of those arrows is waiving the Jones Act, allowing international help to come in and clean up what's going on there.
CARLSON: So are you saying that the reason that President Obama has not waived it is because he does not want to get the unions mad at him? Would that be one of the reasons?
DJOU: You know, I think that perhaps that's one reason for it. I mean, you know, again, I understand here in normal circumstances, perhaps you want to protect the unions over there and in shipping. But in this situation, we have such a huge ecological disaster, I think it's important that we take help from whomever and from wherever they're willing to offer it. This is a major crisis here. The president said he wants to do absolutely everything possible to fix this situation. I'm in agreement, so why are we not waving the Jones Act to allow international help to come in and help us clean up this mess in the Gulf.
CARLSON: Yeah, a lot of people are asking that same question.
Djou opposed Jones Act prior to oil spill. The Honolulu Advertiser reported on January 14 that during the congressional special election campaign, Djou supported "an exemption for Hawai'i from the Jones Act." According to the Associated Press, Djou "charged that the law results in higher consumer prices for Hawaii residents."
In fact, international help has indeed been accepted
National Incident Command: "15 foreign-flagged vessels are involved" in the response. A June 18 document released by National Incident Commander, Adm. Thad Allen, and a June 15 press release from the Deepwater Horizon Incident Joint Information Center state: "Currently 15 foreign-flagged vessels are involved in the largest response to an oil spill in U.S. history. No Jones Act waivers have been granted because none of these vessels have required such a waiver to conduct their operations as part of the response in the Gulf of Mexico."
Acting Maritime Administrator: "[T]wenty-three percent of the vessels responding to the oil spill are not U.S.-flag," and they are "not in violation of the Jones Act." David Matsuda, acting Maritime Administrator, stated in June 17 congressional testimony that "[d]uring the current situation in the Gulf of Mexico, U.S.- flag vessels have been used in every situation where U.S. vessels and crew are available. Seventy-seven percent of the vessels providing oil spill response in the Gulf are U.S.- flagged." He added, "Even though twenty-three percent of the vessels responding to the oil spill are not U.S.-flag, none of these are known to be in violation of any U.S. law or regulation. Vessels that do not call upon points in the United States are not in violation of the Jones Act."
Foreign equipment has also been used. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs stated during the June 15 edition of Fox & Friends that "foreign entities are operating within the Gulf that help us respond" to the oil spill. Gibbs also stated in a June 10 press briefing that "we are using equipment and vessels from countries like Norway, Canada, the Netherlands. There has not been any problem with this. If there is the need for any type of waiver, that would obviously be granted. But this -- we've not had that problem thus far in the Gulf." Fox News reporter Brian Wilson wrote on June 10 that "[t]he Coast Guard and the Administration are quick to point out that some foreign technology is being used in the current cleanup effort," including containment boom and skimmers.
Officials have repeatedly rejected claim that Jones Act has hindered clean-up
Foreign ships operating outside of three miles offshore are not subject to Jones Act. Rear Admiral Kevin Cook, Coast Guard Director of Prevention Policy, stated during a June 17 House hearing (accessed via Nexis): "I would not call [the Jones Act] an impediment because foreign-flagged skimmers can be -- they're treated as oil spill response vessels. And if they're operated outside of three miles, they are not impacted by the Jones Act." For reference, the Deepwater Horizon rig was reportedly drilling about 50 miles offshore.
NIC: "[W]e have not seen any need to waive the Jones Act" but are prepared to process waivers "should that be necessary." In the June 18 document, the National Incident Command stated: "While we have not seen any need to waive the Jones Act as part of this historic response, we continue to prepare for all possible scenarios, and that's why Admiral Allen provided guidance to process necessary waivers as quickly as possible to allow vital spill response activities being undertaken by foreign-flagged vessels to continue without delay should that be necessary." The document further states:
In no case has the Federal On Scene Coordinator (FOSC) or Unified Area Command (UAC) declined to request assistance or accept offers of assistance of foreign vessels that meet an operational need because the Jones Act was implicated.
Coast Guard: "No offers of qualified assistance have been turned away." During the June 17 hearing, Rep. Howard Coble (R-NC) asked about "news reports" that have suggested "that the administration has rejected offers of foreign-flagged skimmers." Cook responded, "No offers of qualified assistance have been turned away. "
Fox's own Special Report previously noted that Allen "says the 1920 Jones Act is not getting in the way." From a report by Molly Henneberg that aired during the June 17 edition of Fox News' Special Report (accessed via Nexis):
MOLLY HENNEBERG, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What are needed most in the gulf right now, according to National Incident Commander Thad Allen are skimmers, stand-alone ships that can suck up oil.
ADM THAD ALLEN (RET), NATIONAL INCIDENT COMMANDER: We need to put those wherever we can get them. And we want to get them from wherever they're available.
HENNEBERG: Even overseas, and he says the 1920 Jones Act is not getting in the way. The Jones Act designed to protect U.S. shipping and maritime union jobs requires that ships carrying goods between U.S. ports be owned and crewed by Americans. Two days ago, Admiral Allen said he would speed up the waiver process. And today, this.
ALLEN: To date nobody has come for a Jones Act waiver.
HENNEBERG: But some critics who wanted the administration to do these months ago say the word needs to come from the top.
CHARLES DJOU (R), HAWAII REPRESENTATIVE: I think it's important for the president to clearly enunciate that he's going to waive the process that we are going to take help from whomever wants to give us help from wherever help it's going to come.
HENNEBERG: Congressman Djou says some ships from Mexico, Canada and Belgium have not been able to help because of the Jones Act. But Admiral Allen counters that there are at least 15 foreign-flagged ships involved, although in international waters near the oil leak. One maritime expert says the law does allow international oil spill response vessels to move into U.S. waters, closer to shore, temporarily, but not all ships would qualify.
MARTIN DAVIES, MARITIME LAW PROFESSOR: It's important oil tankers to store the oil in foreign flag oil countries then there wouldn't need to be a Jones Act waiver for them.
HENNEBERG: Still, lawmakers are trying to put out the call to anyone who can help.
MARY LANDRIEU (D), LOUISIANA SENATOR: We should be asking everybody in the world whether it's Canada or Norway or other countries that have deep water off the continental shelf by drilling operations to put their very best efforts forward.
HENNEBERG: Congressman Djou insists other countries aren't going to volunteer ships if there's a drawn-out waiver process, but Admiral Allen says anything that falls under the Jones Act will be hurried through that waiver procedure -- Bret.