Barton Now Sorry for BP Apology

North Texas congressman's remarks drew firestorm of criticism

By Eric Kreindler
|  Thursday, Jun 17, 2010  |  Updated 5:16 PM CDT
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Barton Now Sorry for BP Apology

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Who's sorry now? Rep. Joe Barton, that's who.

The North Texas congressman apologized late Thursday for apologizing to BP for President Barack Obama's actions earlier in the day and retracted his remarks.

Baron, a Republican with homes in Ennis and Arlington, opened Thursday's hearing with an apology to the chief of the British company.

“I do not want to live in a country where any time a citizen or a corporation does something that is legitimately wrong is subject to some sort of political pressure that is -- again, in my words, amounts to a shakedown,” Barton said.

On Wednesday, BP agreed to pay for a $20 billion victims' compensation fund. The fund details were finalized during a four-hour meeting at the White House. Barton said the the money to compensate victims of the Gulf oil spill was a “slush fund.”

"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 in a statement late Thursday. "As I told my colleagues yesterday and said again this morning, BP should bear the full financial responsibility for the accident on their lease in the Gulf of Mexico. ... I regret the impact that my statement this morning implied that BP should not pay for the consequences of their decisions and actions in this incident."

Barton's double mea culpa plus a retraction was made under pressure from fuming GOP leaders.

It succeeded in shifting attention from the tragedy, BP's many missteps and the stoic British oil chief at the witness table, to his own party's close connection to the oil industry.

Barton, who's received $100,470 in oil industry campaign contributions, had first apologized to BP CEO Tony Heyward about a $20 billion relief fund for victims of the spill sought by the White House and agreed to by BP.

That brought outrage from Republicans, who came close to stripping Barton of his post as chairman-in-waiting of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. GOP leaders summoned Barton to the Capitol and demanded he apologize in specific terms. The leaders threatened to launch a process to strip Barton of his seniority on the powerful panel, a particularly painful threat to any long-term lawmaker, according to two knowledgeable Republican officials.

Barton's apology to BP had drawn a sharp rebuke from the White House.

"What is shameful is that Joe Barton seems to have more concern for big corporations that caused this disaster than the fishermen, small business owners and communities whose lives have been devastated by the destruction," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said before Barton's retraction.

Watch video of Barton's statement to BP at Thursday's hearing:

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