Barbour Blames Cost Of BP Disaster On ‘Chocolate Pelican’ Coverage

Barbour's "chocolate pelican"

Today, the House Oversight Committee held a hearing on the recovery efforts after the BP oil spill last April, focusing on the Obama administration’s response. Gov. Haley Barbour (R-MS) testified, standing in as an able replacement for an official company spokesman. In his opening statement, Barbour blamed the economic devastation in Mississippi and the Gulf Coast not on BP, Halliburton, or Transocean, the companies responsible for poisoning the region, but on the news media, for showing a “chocolate pelican“:

So people saw on TV the same brown pelican coated with looked like 3 inches of oil, I mean, looked like a chocolate pelican. And they showed it every hour, every day, 24 hours a day for weeks and weeks and weeks. And the news media, particularly 24-hour cable TV, gave citizens the impression the whole Gulf Coast was coated in oil. People deduced from that that it was unsafe, unpleasant, don’t want to go there. They canceled their reservations, they canceled their contracts to buy condominium and not just in Mississippi, but all across the gulf coast.

The President, to his credit, actually it got so bad that the president came to Mississippi, Alabama and Florida and held news conferences on the beach to say, look, the beaches are clean, the water is clear, it’s beautiful down here, come on down here. But that one news day can’t compete with what was being seen every day, every hour for weeks.

This isn’t the first time Barbour tried to downplay the effects of the oil spill and blame the media for loss of tourism. Just last year, Barbour said that “the news coverage is killing our tourist business,” despite the fact that oil was washing onto the shores of his state.

Additionally, at today’s hearing, Barbour once again tried to blame the Obama administration for deliberately driving up the price of oil and gas to spur investments in clean energy. While Barbour places the blame on Obama for higher gas prices, the statistics actually show that domestic oil production has actually risen to its highest level since 2003. Yet, at the same time, gas prices are hovering just below $4 a gallon and oil at $100 a barrel.

Barbour’s inability to blame oil companies for their crimes comes as no surprise. The Huffington Post wrote in March 2011 that Barbour’s past as an energy lobbyist and politician who raked in millions in oil industry campaign contributions “complicate” his comments on energy policy. And a Think Progress report on Haley Barbour’s ties to Big Oil revealed that the RGA raked in $5 million in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry in 2010 with Barbour at the helm.

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