Thursday, June 3, 2010

Tony Hayward: “Did I Say That?”

The CEO of British Petroleum is not the first, and won’t be the last chief executive to say things he later regretted. We can only hope they regret some of the things they said.

Thanks to NEWSWEEK Magazine, we have a collection of documented “gaffes” – Newsweek’s description – made by BP’s Tony Hayward, beginning almost immediately after the April 20 explosion that killed 11 people and sent a steady stream of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

One of the reasons we normally recommend the top executive NOT be an on-going spokesman in a crisis is if he/she misspeaks there is no one else who can step in and fix it. Hayward keeps misspeaking and there isn’t anyone in the organization that can fix it.

The New York Times reported Hayward told associates “What the hell did we do to deserve this?” And Newsweek added, “A possible answer might be the company’s 760 safety violations over the last three years” compared to one for ExxonMobile.

Two weeks later Hayward tried to put the disaster in perspective, telling a British reporter the Gulf of Mexico is “a very big ocean” and the oil and dispersant spreading throughout the region “is tiny in relation to the total water volume”

Then he was quoted by Sky News as saying the “environmental impact of this disaster is likely to be very, very modest.” Either his staff is incompetent, lying to him, or he is not paying attention to them.

The biggest “gaffe,” at least to many of the Gulf area victims, including the families of the eleven that died, came May 30 on the Today Show when he declared, “. . . there’s no one who wants this over more than I do. I would like my life back.”

You can imagine how the victim families felt about that. He later apologized.

BP has hired help – one of former Vice President Dick Cheney’s spokespersons, Anne Womack-Kolton, has been brought in to advise Hayward!

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