President Obama slammed BP today for spending money on a new television ad campaign and paying dividends to shareholders as Gulf Coast residents continue to clamor for action and progress toward containing the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
Showing frustration and a touch of irritation, Obama noted that BP has contracted for $50 million worth of television advertising in order to "manage their image during the course of this disaster" and cited reports that the oil company will pay $10.5 billion to shareholders this quarter.
"I don't have a problem with BP fulfilling its legal obligations," Obama said. "But I want BP to be very clear: They've got moral and legal obligations here in the Gulf for the damage that has been done.
"What I don't want to hear," he said, "is when they're spending that kind of money on their shareholders and spending that kind of money on TV advertising that they're nickel and diming fishermen or small businesses here in the Gulf who are having a hard time."
Obama said that federal officials would be looking over BP's shoulder and working with state and local officials to ensure the company was not "lawyering up" when it comes to claims from those hurt by this catastrophe.
"They say they want to make it right," Obama said. "That's part of their advertising campaign. Well, we want them to make it right."
Obama returned to the Louisiana Gulf Coast today for another firsthand look at efforts to stop the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and to hear directly from local residents.
This is the president's third visit to the region since the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion April 20 and subsequent oil leak; his second trip in the past week.
Today, dozens of pelicans and other birds, their feathers basted in oil the consistency of pancake batter, were brought to a wildlife rescue facility in Fort Jackson, La. For every one bird rescued another four are found dead.
The numbers of animals affected by the oil are now mushrooming, according to wildlife officials. In fact, in the past two days more birds were brought in to the rescue facility in Fort Jackson than in all previous 45 days of the spill.
Only some of the rescued birds will survived the cleaning process. Others will go into shock and die.
More than 30,000 birds were killed following the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska. The Gulf spill is three times larger in size and it's also in the center of the migratory path of millions of birds a year.
Obama touched down in New Orleans this afternoon and immediately met Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, Gulf state governors, members of Congress and local officials for a briefing on the latest attempts to cap the spewing pipeline and mitigate the environmental damage. Allen is commanding the accident-response effort.
Obama sounded a cautious note on the news coming from BP regarding efforts to "plug the damn hole," as he once said. While he wouldn't go into technical details about attempts to cap the well, he said, "it does appear that the cap, at least for now, is holding"
The president stressed, however, that it is "way too early to be optimistic" about BP's latest efforts to control the spill.