Obama Says He Would Fire BP CEO, Wants to Know 'Whose Ass to Kick'

President defended crisis handling, said he wanted to know "whose ass to kick."

ByLEE FERRAN via via logo
June 06, 2010, 11:48 AM

June 8, 2010— -- Fifty days after a Gulf rig explosion sparked the largest oil spill in U.S. history, a frustrated President Obama said he would have fired BP CEO Tony Hayward by now.

In light of Hayward's comments that the environmental impact would be "modest" and he wanted his "life back," the president told NBC News that Hayward "wouldn't be working for me after any of those statements."

In the interview that aired today, Obama defended his decision not to speak with Hayward.

"I have not spoken to him directly," Obama said. "Here's the reason. Because my experience is, when you talk to a guy like a BP CEO, he's going to say all the right things to me. I'm not interested in words. I'm interested in actions."

Obama also leveled his anger at those who criticized the way he has handled the crisis, saying he was there long before "most of these talking heads were even paying attention.

"I don't sit around just talking to experts because this is a college seminar," he said. "We talk to these folks because they potentially have the best answers, so I know whose ass to kick."

Such forceful language was broadcast a day after an ABC News-Washington Post poll found that more Americans rated the government's response as negative than they did for the response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

One of Obama's most vocal critics was also one of the most unexpected, Democratic political consultant James Carville.

"It just looks like he's not involved in this," an angry Carville said on "Good Morning America" last month. "Man, you got to get down here and take control of this, put somebody in charge of this thing and get this moving. We're about to die down here."

Obama: 'It Gets You Frustrated'

Republican Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal also took aim at Obama, telling the federal government last month to do a better job at responding or to get out of the way.

The White House previously defended Obama's actions in regard to the Gulf. Press secretary Robert Gibbs said last week the crisis needed more than theatrics and "method acting.

"If the president thought that yelling at the top of his lungs would solve this crisis, he would stand on top of the White House and do that. But he believes this crisis will be solved by plugging the hole and responding to the damage done ...," Gibbs said.

But Obama's frustration came from more than his critics' words, he said. It also came from looking into the eyes of those affected by the spill.

"When you watch television or you go down to the Gulf and you see birds covered in oil, and you talk to fishermen who are on the verge of tears, big tough guys ... their livelihoods are being smothered by this oil, it gets you frustrated," he said. "But it has not reduced my confidence that our trajectory is right. We've just got to keep on moving."

Latest Cap Is Working but Oil Still Spewing

BP's top cap is now siphoning more than half of the oil spewing from its damaged well in the Gulf of Mexico, but officials admit that the slick is still growing and becoming more unmanageable with each passing day.

Though the containment cap was able to siphon off about 472,000 gallons by Monday, that still left much oil spilling into the Gulf.

Other federal authorities acknowledged the scope of the problem that they already face, a massive oil slick that has grown to cover an area the size of the state of South Carolina.

"The battle now involves hundreds of thousands of individual patches of oil," Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen said in Washington Monday, acknowledging that the impact of the spill will last for years to come.

Oil Headed for North Carolina?

The patches of oil, which are inches thick in some places, have broken apart and are multiplying across the Gulf. Dolphins could be seen Monday swimming through them, and the oil has already hit 220 miles of coastline across four states, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. One third of the Gulf of Mexico's federal waters remain closed to fishing.

Forecasts show that by Wednesday, the oil could spread as far east as Panama City, Fla., and the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research suggested that currents and wind could push the oil around Florida by early summer and move the slick up the East Coast, as far as North Carolina.

ABC News' David Muir and Bradley Blackburn contributed to this report.

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