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'Tired' Tony Hayward 'savaged' by Congress, say UK media

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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • BP boss Tony Hayward faced tough questioning before Congress hearing
  • Some UK media liken the event to a "public execution"
  • Others say that Hayward's performance was "weary" and "tired"
  • UK media attacked Obama last week for repeated criticism of BP

London, England (CNN) -- British commentators and media have been split by the performance of BP boss Tony Hayward before a Congressional committee investigating the Gulf Coast oil disaster.

But while some analysts backed Hayward following Thursday's appearance before his House Energy and Commerce Committee, others criticized his performance and approach.

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PR guru Mark Borkowski writing in The Daily Telegraph, said that Hayward "couldn't, or wouldn't, answer most of the questions. In fact, he looked like a tired undertaker who was rather bored with having to look mournful."

Later Borkowski added: "The man has the communication skills of a tax inspector; dry and arrogant. Its incredible that one of the most important corporate jobs in the world has been entrusted to him."

Hawyard's tone was likened to "that of a weary registrar in a South London crematorium" by The Times' Giles Whittell, writing from Washington.

"As to the meager substance of his answers, he appeared to have drunk deeply of the wisdom of his lawyers. The committee members knew it, and it did not make them happy."

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"Whatever he was thinking, what he said made him look like an oil man on the skids. Americans say he looks like Mr Bean. Make that Mr Has-been."

Hayward withdrew into a "firmly defensive posture" during the early part of the hearing, wrote John Grapper, the Financial Times chief business commentator, Thursday.

"He has performed as he was presumably coached to do," says Grapper, "looking remorseful and grim and refusing to be drawn into specifics about the causes of the accident."

Hayward's only comfort, said Grapper, was when Joe Barton, a Republican member of the committee, said that White House plans for a compensation fund amounted to a "$20bn shakedown."

The Guardian likewise observed that Hayward had been "carefully coached by legal and media teams" but that he still "failed to satisfy." He had "multiple variations on the same theme" and "clung to his argument that it would be premature to comment."

But the Daily Mail took a tougher line against the hearing, saying the BP boss was "treated like Public Enemy No 1 by American politicians" and that the occasion was "billed as a chance for Washington's finest to 'slice and dice' Tony Hayward. It didn't disappoint. BP's chief executive was subjected to a grilling so savage yesterday it was more like ancient Rome than Capitol Hill."

Hayward was "abused and heckled" according to the Daily Express with committee members "determined to get their pound of flesh in what at times appeared to be a rather public execution on Capitol Hill."

It ended: "Throughout the session, the atmosphere became increasingly heated and confrontational with Congressmen repeatedly interrupting the BP boss. The conclusion was clear -- the majority of those engaged in this show trial had already decided he was guilty."

The Independent's Rupert Cornwell, explaining the process of congressional hearings for UK readers, described them as a 21st-century version of the medieval stocks that is "one of the signature rituals of American democracy."

He explained that "once they were not only riveting political theatre but events that could turn U.S. history," citing examples such as the 1954 hearings into senator Joseph McCarthy

"But," continued Cornwell, "for all the venting of outrage, and the emotional satisfaction thus gained, few new facts generally emerge. Those that do are usually lost amid the showboating of committee members."

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