Barton Apologizes To Hayward For White House ‘Shakedown’

By Cullen Dirner

Jun 17, 2010 11:12am

ABC News’ Jonathan Karl reports: BP CEO Tony Hayward is in the hot seat today, but the top Republican on the Energy and Commerce Committee used his opening statement to slam the White House for being unfair to BP. "I am ashamed by what happened at the White House yesterday," said Rep. Joe Barton. "It's a tragedy that private corporation can be subjected to a shakedown." The compensation fund set up yesterday at the White House, Barton said, is "a $20 billion shakedown" that BP was forced to set up under the threat of a Department of Justice criminal investigation. Barton called it "a $20 billion slush fund unprecedented in American history,” and concluded by apologizing to Hayward. “I'm only speaking for myself, I'm not speaking for anybody else, but I apologize I do not want to live in a country where any time a citizen or a corporation does something that is legitimately wrong is subject to some sort of political pressure that is again in my words amounts to a ‘shakedown’ so I apologize,” he said. The Congressman has a record of accepting big contributions from the oil industry, having raked in $1.4 million from the industry since 1989 and is one of the top ten all-time biggest recipients of BP money in the House of Representatives, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs responded to Rep. Barton’s remarks in a written statement, saying: "What is shameful is that Joe Barton seems to have more concern for big corporations that caused this disaster than the fishermen, small business owners and communities whose lives have been devastated by the destruction. Congressman Barton may think that a fund to compensate these Americans is a ‘tragedy’, but most Americans know that the real tragedy is what the men and women of the Gulf Coast are going through right now.  Members from both parties should repudiate his comments." House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, today said he disagrees with Barton's comments, and that BP ought to be held responsible for the spill and should pay for it. ABC News' Andrew Miller and Matthew Jaffe contributed to this report.

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