This morning, Fox News anchor Brit Hume scoffed at the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, wondering, “Where is the oil?” Hume followed the lead of Rush Limbaugh and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R), who have been aggressively downplaying the disaster and bristling at comparisons to the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill. During the Fox News Sunday roundtable, Hume dismissed the expert analysis that many times more oil have spilled already than the Exxon Valdez disaster, a point raised by fellow panelist Juan Williams:
WILLIAMS: First of all, don’t you think, this spill now is going to be in excess of what happened with Exxon Valdez.
HUME: Let’s see if that happens. There’s a good question today if you are standing on the Gulf, and that is: Where is the oil?
WILLIAMS: “Where is the oil?”
HUME: It’s not on — except for little of chunks of it, you’re not even seeing it on the shore yet.
Independent experts, using both surface and subsea estimates, believe the vast sea of oil gushing from multiple leaks on the seabed surpassed the Exxon Valdez weeks ago. “Scientists are finding enormous oil plumes in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico, including one as large as 10 miles long, 3 miles wide and 300 feet thick in spots.” “The millions of gallons of crude, and the introduction of chemicals to disperse it, have thrown this underwater ecosystem into chaos, and scientists have no answer to the question of how this unintended and uncontrolled experiment in marine biology and chemistry will ultimately play out. “
The slick on the surface of the Gulf is now about 4,922 square miles, larger than Los Angeles County, Delaware, or Rhode Island. On the surface, oil contamination has reached the barrier islands of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida.
After Hume repeated the “natural seepage” talking point to falsely imply the oil industry’s catastrophic record of spills is unimportant, he then mirrored Rush Limbaugh’s argument that “The ocean will take care of this on its own”:
WILLIAMS: But I think it will damage the environment in the gulf and damage tourism and damage fishing. I don’t think there’s any question this is in excess of anything we’ve previously asked the ocean to absorb.
HUME: We’ll see if it is. We’ll see if it is. The ocean absorbs a lot, Juan, an awful lot. The ocean absorbs a lot.
WILLIAMS: I think Rush Limbaugh went down this road, “The ocean can handle it.” I think we have to take some responsibility for the environment and be responsible to people who live in the area, vacation in that area, fish in that area. It’s just wrong to think, “You know what? Dump it on the ocean and let the ocean handle it.”
HUME: Who said that? Who is saying that? No one’s making that argument.
Nearly two weeks ago, Gulf Coast marine scientists told ThinkProgress they “shudder to think” of the devastation this underwater apocalypse could entail, because “oil is bad for everything” that lives in the ocean.