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Barbour Downplays Spill — ‘The Coast Is Clear, Come On Down!’ — Calls For More Drilling Before Cause Is Found

By Alex Seitz-Wald

"Barbour Downplays Spill — ‘The Coast Is Clear, Come On Down!’ — Calls For More Drilling Before Cause Is Found"

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On Fox News Sunday today, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) continued to aggressively downplay the massive BP oil gusher, explaining that tar balls washing up on his state’s beaches are “no big deal” because you can “pick them up and throw them in the bag.” And instead of attacking BP for causing the spill, he blamed the media for creating a “misperception” of crisis by daring to call attention to one of the worst environmental disasters in American history:

BARBOUR: Well, the truth is, Chris, we have had virtually no oil. … We have had a few tar balls but we have tar balls every year, as a natural product of the Gulf of Mexico. … So, tar balls are no big deal. In fact, I read that Pensacola or the Florida beaches when they have tar balls yesterday didn’t even close. They just sent people out to pick them up and throw them in the bag. The biggest, the biggest negative impact for us has been the news coverage. … The average viewer to this show thinks that the whole coast from Florida to Texas is ankle-deep in oil. … So it may be hard for the viewer to understand, but the worst thing for us has been how our tourist season has been hurt by the misperception of what is going on down here. The Mississippi Gulf Coast is beautiful. As I tell people, the coast is clear. Come on down!

Barbour has consistently refused to accept the gravity of the situation in the Gulf, and blamed the media for supposedly over-hyping the disaster. He’s compared oil to tooth paste, said all the oil on Mississippi’s beaches could barely “fill up a milk jug,” and handed out gas cards to encourage tourists to “[c]ome on down here and play golf, enjoy the beach, catch a fish.” Meanwhile, dead dolphins have washed ashore on Mississippi’s beaches.

Barbour went on to suggest that President Obama was “destroying himself” by not adequately responding to the spill, but he had nothing negative to say of BP. Barbour — who received $1.8 million from oil and gas companies for his gubernatorial campaign — explained, “When we ask BP for something, they try to do it.” The lobbying firm Barbour founded relied highly on oil industry clients, with Barbour personally lobbying for regulation changes to the Bush White House.

Meanwhile, Obama has imposed a moratorium on deep water drilling until an investigation of the BP disaster is complete, and Barbour said today he agreed that it’s “critical for our future to find out why this happened.” But in the next breath, he came out strongly against the moratorium, and called for more drilling now:

WALLACE: The White House says until they figure out what happened, a question that you asked, and how to make sure it doesn’t happen again it would be foolish to let the oil companies, including BP, drill new deepwater wells.

BARBOUR: Well, I disagree with that, because the alternative to that is we’ve shut in 33 wells, just kind of in the middle of production. Who knows if they will ever come back. And we’re going to push all the equipment away. We’re not going to have it to drill here.

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Barbour joins a number of other Republicans in calling for more drilling before the investigation is complete. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) recently wrote a letter to the White House demanding drilling resume quickly, while Sens. David Vitter (R-LA) and John Cornyn (R-TX) have also called for an end to the moratorium.

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