While other Gulf state governors have been racing to mitigate the damage from the massive BP spill, or rethinking their support for offshore drilling, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) has been aggressively downplaying the disaster and bristling at comparisons to the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill. Barbour told radio host Bill Bennett last week that if the spill comes ashore, “it will have some effect,” but that “it isn’t anything like Exxon Valdez.” Later that day, on Fox News, Barbour suggested the oil had “turned around” and wouldn’t be “another Valdez situation.” And last Wednesday, Barbour said, “Some in the news media keep forcing this on the public as the equivalent of Exxon Valdez. Well, the difference is just enormous.”
He’s right. New analysis shows the spill is “already far larger” than the Exxon Valdez crash, and that it only takes a “few days, [or] at most a week” for the BP spill to release as much oil as the Valdez did. However, Barbour continues to try to wish away the spill, saying it could have a “minimal impact” on his state, and comparing it to a harmless gasoline sheen found around motor boats:
He told The Associated Press the oil spill could be disastrous for Mississippi’s coastal economy. Then he added: “But it’s just as possible that what happens here will be manageable and of moderate and even minimal impact.”
Oil has not started washing up on shore in any large quantities, and Barbour likened much of the spill to the gasoline sheen commonly found around ski boats.
“We don’t wash our face in it, but it doesn’t stop us from jumping off the boat to ski,” Barbour said.
At a press conference, Barbour encouraged potential visitors to “[c]ome on down here and play golf, enjoy the beach, catch a fish.” But it may be hard to enjoy a beach covered in tar balls and dead fish. Here’s something tourists might find if they visit Mississippi’s beaches:
Barbour is the chairman of the Republican Governors Association (RGA) and as the AP notes, “oil companies have contributed $51,350 to RGA” since Barbour took over. BP America gave the RGA $10,000 in 2003, the first year Barbour ran for governor, and while “[i]ts’ not possible to trace that donation directly to Barbour,” his campaign received about $2 million from the RGA that year.