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Perry Catches Heat for "Act of God" Statement

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    NEW ORLEANS, LA - APRIL 9: Texas Governor Rick Perry speaks to delegates at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference, April 9, 2010 in New Orleans. (Photo by Cheryl Gerber/Getty Images)

    Republican Gov. Rick Perry said earlier this week that the oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico may have been "just an act of God," but has since taken a step back from that statement.  Or has he?

    Perry initially offered the theory at a conference sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Monday where he said, "from time to time there are going to be things that occur that are acts of God that cannot be prevented," reported Politico.com.

    With the statement, Perry was trying to save BP from being blamed for the catastrophe and calm any growing swell of support for ending or halting drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. The latter he feels, probably rightly so, would be a big blow to the economy.

    "I hope we don’t see a knee-jerk reaction across this country that says we’re going to shut down drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, because the cost to this country will be staggering," Perry said.

    On Tuesday, Perry's staff clarified the governor's remarks, saying he wasn't insisting the rig fire and oil spill were the result of the hand of God, but rather that it was a possibility, as reported by DallasNews.com.

    To further muddle the statement, the paper reports Perry said he suspects the incident to be the result of mechanical failure, but that he wasn't entirely shutting the door on the possibility of supernatural involvement.

    "I don't think that a big wave came along at a very inopportune time and caused [the incident] ... but I don't know that," he said.

    Perry is basically saying, let's wait until we figure out what caused the incident (act of God or mechanical failure) before making any decisions regarding current or future drilling in the gulf. Frankly, that's a prudent statement to be making.

    But, Perry then drew more criticism when he said that BP, "historically had a very good safety record from my perspective."  A statement that has drawn criticism from far and wide due to the explosion at the BP refinery in Texas City in 2005 that killed 15 workers and injured 170 others.

    Bill White (D), who is running against Perry in the November election for governor, seized the opportunity politically and targeted Perry in this missive on "Understanding the BP Blowout and Its Implications."

    Further, Perry, annoyed by the interpretation of his statement by mainstream media, lashed out at reporters and invited them to look up the definition of "act of God" in Webster's dictionary.  The Houston Chronicle did just that.

    Meanwhile, a Congressional committee has already announced that it will investigate the cause of the accident; various other agencies are conducting separate investigations. Investigators will also have to unravel who is responsible for the failure. Although BP has overall responsibility, the drilling rig is owned and operated by another company, Transocean. A third company, Halliburton, did the cement work.

    MSNBC's John W. Schoen contributed to this report.