Does the congressman that apologized to BP and called their $20 billion escrow fund a "shakedown" have a point? Fox Business Network's Stuart Varney appears to think so.
Rep. Joe Barton shocked fellow Republicans Thursday when he told BP he was sorry that the government was forcing them to pay up for a spill they were responsible for.
"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 and is subject to some sort of political pressure that is, again, in my words, amounts to a shakedown. So I apologize," said Barton.
Republicans quickly distanced themselves from Barton but at least one conservative commentator at Fox News revealed why he thought the congressman was right.
"One congressman calling the BP compensation fund a shakedown. Does he have a point?" wondered Brian Kilmeade while introducing Varney.
"In that White House meeting, reportedly Vice President Biden says pay up or else we'll bring the full court press of the United States government to bare on you and you will pay," explained Varney.
"The administration wins politically by beating up on BP and taking $20 billion off them. It also diverts attention from the administration's own failure to clean up this mess. But look, what happens if BP can't come up with this $20 billion. Let's suppose that the administration does indeed drive them into bankruptcy," said Varney.
"Essentially, BP becomes nationalized because part of this $20 billion deal is if you can't pay, we get your assets," Varney continued.
"So, we are going to essentially own a British company," asked Fox News' Gretchen Carlson.
"It would. It would own BP North America if BP can't come up with this $20 billion and remember, that's not the limits of their liability. There's all kinds of other stuff," Varney warned.
"It did not cap BP's liabilities at $20 billion. There's still the gulf cleanup to be paid for by BP. There's still the numerous lawsuits outside of this $20 billion. They could yet be forced into bankruptcy. And if they are, then BP is semi-nationalized by the American government. You want that?" Varney asked.
(Nicole:) The focus has been on Barton, but he's only the convenient face of a larger Republican meme. Media Matters did a nice round up of how the right wing media has continued to use the "shakedown" rhetoric while keeping everyone focused on Barton. As Steve Benen points out:
For weeks, much of the criticism of the White House was centered around the idea that the administration wasn't pushing BP hard enough. But on Wednesday, the president went into a meeting with the company's executives, told them how it was going to be, and BP quickly agreed. The result: a $20 billion pot of money that will bring much-needed help to workers, businesses, and families who've been victimized by a devastating oil spill. This was no small task for Obama, and Americans have every right to be pleased. (One poll this week found 82% of the public supports the creation of the escrow fund.)
And yet, Republicans seem to be outraged. We talked yesterday about GOP officials and candidates sticking up for BP, and today, ThinkProgress put together this compilation video of Republican media figures doing the same thing. It's all quite breathtaking, and the result of a strategy the party really hasn't thought through.
Indeed, the rhetoric is almost comical. Fox News' Brian Kilmeade suggested this morning that Obama is being "too tough" on BP. Talk of a "shakedown" is ubiquitous in conservative media circles. Some Republican media personalities have described the president's securing of funds for the Gulf Coast as "illegal" and "unconstitutional." Even after party leaders said Barton was "wrong," leading party voices, including Rush Limbaugh, continue to insist he was right.
Now, it's possible that Republicans in Congress and in the media are simply offering a knee-jerk response -- Obama secured funding for spill victims, so the funding must be bad -- but there seems to be more to this. Republicans on the Hill and in the media just want BP to be treated with kid gloves. A foreign oil giant is responsible for the worst environmental catastrophe in American history, and the GOP would prefer that Obama go easy on the company. In Rand Paul's words, for the president to even criticize BP is "un-American."