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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
BP Continues Attempt to Cap Gulf Oil Leak; President Obama Visits Gulf Region
Aired June 4, 2010 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening again from Louisiana, a lot happening today and tonight.
BP engineers who capped their leaky pipe last night now working to close vents on that cap, but most of the oil still blowing out the vents, not being sucked up to the surface, details on that.
Also ahead tonight, the oil which hit Pensacola beaches is now heading farther up the Florida Panhandle -- more on all of that.
But I flew to Houston today for an exclusive interview with five workers from the Deepwater Horizon. They are still stunned, still injured in some cases, and still mourning the 11 men who died when the rig blew.
DANIEL BARRON III, DEEPWATER HORIZON EXPLOSION SURVIVOR: The mud and seawater and gas was just coming down on us, like it was raining. And we ran back to the phone, and he picked up the phone. And he just looked at me and he goes, man, I smell gas.
And I said, what do we do?
And he goes, run.
DOUG BROWN, DEEPWATER HORIZON EXPLOSION SURVIVOR: And the explosion took me from behind and threw me up against that console.
COOPER: And what was that explosion like?
BROWN: It was like being hit by a freight train from behind.
MATTHEW JACOBS, DEEPWATER HORIZON EXPLOSION SURVIVOR: And I could feel the heat from the flames as soon as I come out onto the smoke deck. But when I got up on the lifeboat deck, I just stopped, and I looked up. And I was, like, this ain't -- I said, this can't be happening. I said, there is no way we can put that fire out.
COOPER: What did it look like?
JACOBS: It -- it looked like you was looking at the face of death. I mean, you could hear it, see it, smell it.
(END VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: Hear it, see it, smell it. We will have more from those men ahead.
It's important because we're trying to piece together what happened on that rig, not just on that day, but in the days and weeks before. And why did it happen?
President Obama visited Louisiana for the third time today, the president slamming BP for spending $50 million on that new ad campaign we told you about last night. Maybe you have seen it on TV, Tony Hayward reading off a teleprompter, talking about saying he's story, and possibly billions on dividends they're giving to investors, while leaving fishermen high and dry, said the president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't have a problem with BP fulfilling its legal obligations, but I want BP to be very clear that they have got moral and legal obligations here in the Gulf for the damage that has been done. And what I don't want to hear is when they're spending kind of money on their shareholders, and spending that kind of money on TV advertising, that they're nickel- and-diming fishermen or small businesses here in the Gulf who are having a hard time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, for weeks, we have been hearing from fishermen who say, well, look, they have only received a $5,000 check from BP, when they're losing tens of thousands of dollars in business.
Lo and behold, BP today put out a statement promising a second round of $5,000 compensation payments to fishermen. But just this evening, we have learned from Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal that BP has yet to pay a dime for dredging those berms to protect marshes and barrier islands.
Now, they were ordered to pay for one two-mile stretch of berm about a week-and-a-half ago, ordered to pay the other 40 miles or so earlier this week. So, they're spending $50 million on TV commercials, but they aren't paying fishermen in a timely manner and they aren't paying for berms that local officials say will protect people and land and animals.
And this is a time with marshes filling with oil and beaches where we have seen dead and dying birds.
Now, you can bet they have paid their high-priced consultants. You can bet they have paid their former White House lobbyists and congressional staffers, dozens of them that they have hired, but they haven't paid for those six berms left -- yet.
Let's talk first with Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser and Rice University presidential historian Douglas Brinkley.
Billy, I can't believe they haven't paid for these berms. A week-and-a-half ago, you guys got approval for one two-mile stretch of berm. They haven't even paid for that?
BILLY NUNGESSER, PRESIDENT, PLAQUEMINES PARISH, LOUISIANA: No, no.
Thank God the governor moved the dredges yesterday anyway. We're going to work. But this is incredible. They have been tasked to pay for it by the government, and they still have not put up a dollar.
COOPER: Have they -- do you have an explanation?
NUNGESSER: Nobody's talking to us. I have got a meeting tomorrow, but I don't know who's going to show up. I told them we want the decision-makers there. It's...
COOPER: So, you feel like they're not talking to you? Because you know they don't come on this program.
NUNGESSER: Well, I have e-mailed. I have written the president several times of BP on these -- trying to get these suction machines to try to suck the oil out of the marsh. No response.
They did rent some high-priced condos for P.R. their people down in Venice, $10,000 a month per condo.
COOPER: So, they have P.R. people actually living in Venice...
NUNGESSER: That's what I'm told, that these condos were rented for them.
And they're surely not getting their money's worth out of their P.R. people, because we could be sitting around the table as a team, going forward, instead of playing these guessing games of deception and -- and -- at every turn. This is a nightmare, to deal with these people.
COOPER: Doug, I don't understand the strategy of BP in not paying. I mean, clearly, they -- you know, they have lawyers and they want to look at contracts, I'm guessing.
Have they -- have you heard from their -- I mean, their lawyers? Have they signed any contracts?
NUNGESSER: No, I know the governor's people had been over in Robert, Louisiana, working with them early on. But...
COOPER: But no solution, no money?
NUNGESSER: Yes. We said he could give us the money or sign the contracts. They have done neither.
COOPER: Doug, what do you think is the strategy here?
DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: BP is just out of their league right now.
They're a company that's unraveling. Their stocks have dropped 35 percent. They're constantly thinking they can P.R. their way out of this. All they need to do is show compassion to the people of Louisiana to care about the wetlands, to care about people losing their jobs.
They're not -- it's not real empathy. All they're doing is looking to get out of this mess from a corporate point of view. And the American people are turning on this company left and right. People have -- are ripping up their credit cards. They're cutting them. They're not going to BP gas stations. People -- you show them the yellow and green, they -- they recoil from just even looking at the logo.
This is clearly -- nobody in history is going to say BP has handled this very well. They need to be real, transparent. Last night, Anderson, the fact that we were watching whether this possible containment capping would work, they offered nobody to even explain to the American people what that was all about.
I think President Obama did a good job, going to Louisiana today. And he's turning the -- the screws on BP, talking about he had better not be nickeling-and-diming the little guys of the state, because the federal government is now on the case.
COOPER: Billy, you met with the president today. How did that go?
He's -- he's -- he's doing a good job. He's responding to everything we need. And I think BP needs to step up to the plate. And he's going to make sure that happens. We need to get somebody on the ground making decisions, because the marsh is dying every day. The marsh we went out to, still no cleanup.
COOPER: Out in Pass a Loutre, the marsh that we went to...
COOPER: ... I guess it was a week-and-a-half and then again this week on Wednesday...
NUNGESSER: Still nobody out there cleaning it up.
COOPER: Still covered with oil?
NUNGESSER: Covered with oil. COOPER: And I -- you just told me before we went on the air that they're actually now -- they have hired private security people to stop reporters from going out?
And, you know, one of the local security companies wasn't even considered. They brought them in from out of town. And they were stopping some press from going out today.
COOPER: How can they do that?
NUNGESSER: So -- well, they tried. So, we issued some badges from Plaquemines Parish Oil Spill Strike Force to the media that wants to go out. People...
COOPER: So, can I get one of those badges?
COOPER: So, it's actually a Plaquemines Parish...
NUNGESSER: It's -- put your name on it and your picture, and they can't stop you. We're under state of emergency. We're giving authority to the press.
People need to see this. We need to be transparent. And this is absolutely ridiculous.
COOPER: Now, I find that stunning, Doug, I mean, for a company that, again, you know, if they said, look, we don't want to be transparent, that would be one thing. They have said, clearly, they want to be as transparent as possible.
And no one wants a bunch of people out in boats not knowing what they're doing messing up marshes or anything. But to just hire some private security company to stop reporters going out, that just seems like a stupid maneuver.
BRINKLEY: They're paranoid.
I mean, they're trying to cover up the crime scene. They haven't wanted reporters anywhere near the rig. They don't like helicopters flying over. They act like they own the beaches of Louisiana.
This is a company that's very fearful of what's going to happen when the Justice Department really weighs down on them. And I think the president has lost patience. I think he went for a month or longer trying to think that we had to work in some kind of synchronicity with BP.
But I think the worm has turned. When he spent time today, the president, with the fisherman, and had a crawfish boil and ate and talked to people, the grassroots organizer of Chicago that is President Obama came out. He hasn't been very effective talking about wildlife and conservation and the environmental disaster, but I think he does feel the pain of the people in the Gulf South.
And I think we have now a president really ready to represent that region. And it's going to get interesting as -- watching BP scurry for cover when the Justice Department weighs down on them, which they're starting to do right now.
COOPER: If Tony Hayward was smart, he would just go out on a boat with you and go out and see those marshes. And, I mean, I don't know why -- it's fine he doesn't want to come on this program, if BP officials don't want to come on this program. We're just a silly TV program.
But the fact that he won't come and meet with you and deal with you is just, you know...
NUNGESSER: It's incredible.
NUNGESSER: But I will tell you, the president took Louisiana seafood on Air Force One to eat for dinner today.
COOPER: Is that right?
NUNGESSER: So, the seafood's still good.
COOPER: I just had -- I had some shrimp that just came out of the water that was great last night.
So, Billy, appreciate it.
NUNGESSER: Thank you so much.
COOPER: We're going to have Billy back later on in the program, and Doug as well.
Stick around. We want to talk about Tony Hayward and comments he's Mideast, and also about his chances of staying as CEO of BP, those comments about, "I would like my life back."
We also talked to the survivors of the deepwater rig about those comments.
Let us know what you think. Join the live chat at AC360.com.
Up next: survivors of the inferno in the Gulf.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DANIEL BARRON III, DEEPWATER HORIZON EXPLOSION SURVIVOR: And I remember seeing Dale. He was the -- he was the crane operator. And he was in the crane on the first explosion and was trying to get out of the crane. I mean, he -- he just was running down the stairs. And then the second explosion happened. And it literally picked him up, I mean, like -- like a child would throw a toy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Later: the president's mission today and whether he accomplished what he came to do.
And remember all those workers who were on the beaches the last time he came? We checked on the beaches to see if they were there this time. Guess what we found.
We will be right back.
COOPER: You know, in all the coverage, it's easy to forget that 11 people died when the Deepwater Horizon rig blew up and burned, 11 people literally incinerated. Their bodies have never been found.
For the first time, their crew mates in groups are speaking out. Now, this is the first time a group of survivors has sat down together to talk publicly about what they went through. Their stories provide perhaps the most detailed account so far of what happened on the 20th of April, when all hell broke loose.
BROWN: Yes, I looked up at the fire on the rig floor, and it was getting larger. And that was scaring me. It was starting to spread down onto the main deck. And it was actually so bright, you couldn't even look at it anymore.
And it -- it actually started sounding like a living thing, because it was hissing so loudly, it was almost sounding like the beginnings of a roar of a creature.
COOPER: The fire actually sounded almost alive?
BROWN: Yes. And it just continued to grow. And, finally, the order was given for us to board the lifeboats.
COOPER: And you don't -- you don't remember any of this at this point?
BRENT MANSFIELD, DEEPWATER HORIZON EXPLOSION SURVIVOR: No, sir.
COOPER: Yes. I just -- and, in fact, Doug was probably the first person that I had gotten in contact with after I got to the hospital, when I didn't know where I was working at the time, you know, when I started -- really after I saw my family. And...
COOPER: It's hard for all of you. It's tough to talk about.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very hard.
COOPER: How about you for you, Matt? What do you -- where were you when the first explosion hit?
JACOBS: And out in the hallway, I mean, there's people screaming and hollering. I mean, it's -- it's like the movie "Titanic" right before the ship sinks.
Everybody's just -- I mean, I could feel the heat from the flames as soon as I come out onto the smoke deck. But when I got up on the lifeboat deck, I just stopped, and I looked up. And I was, like, this ain't -- I said, this can't be happening. I said, there is no way we can put that fire out.
COOPER: What did it look like?
JACOBS: It -- it looked like you was looking at the face of death. I mean, you could hear it, see it, smell it.
BARRON: And I remember seeing Dale. He was the -- he was the crane operator. And he was in the crane on the first explosion and was trying to get out of the crane. I mean, he -- he just was running down the stairs. And then the second explosion happened. And it literally picked him up, I mean, like -- like a child would throw a toy.
And -- and -- and it just picked him up and -- and threw him over the handrail. And he ended up bouncing off of the -- the pedestal for the crane. And -- and the whole time I'm watching this, going, man, this -- this can't be. This can't -- you know -- you know, you -- I mean, I don't even know how to explain it. I mean, it's just you're in terror. It's like you're watching a movie.
COOPER: Did you -- did you see -- I mean, you saw him get picked up? You saw the explosion...
BARRON: Yes. I saw -- I saw him. You know, just to see him get blown up like that, it was just -- it was amazing. I mean, it was just -- it was -- it was heart-wrenching. I...
COOPER: Was it the impact that -- did the explosion kill him or the fall?
BARRON: I -- yes, I think he was dead when it exploded. But when he -- I mean, when he landed on the deck, I mean, he basically landed, you know, head first on the deck. And it was -- I mean, I knew it was -- it was over.
COOPER: I mean, when you hear BP, Tony Hayward, say he wants his life back, what did you think?
BARRON: I want my life back. You know? I'm sure you want your life back, too.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
BARRON: I'm sure -- you know, there's 11 guys out there. Their wives want them back.
COOPER: They all want their lives back.
Monday on 360, we're going to have much more on what happened to the men out on that BP rig when it exploded and their accounts of life and death.
And, on Tuesday, warnings -- warnings all not -- right before the explosion, the survivors on what they knew and they feared about what was happening on that rig, Monday and Tuesday at 10:00 p.m. Eastern on 360.
You know, from the beginning, BP has been less than transparent. I mean, we were just talking about that with Billy. It took weeks of arm-twisting to get them to release the video of the leak to lawmakers, the video that -- that we have been showing throughout this hour on the bottom of the screen.
It was only because lawmakers in Washington demanded that it be released to them, and then they made it available to the public, that we even started seeing that video. For weeks, BP lowballed the estimated oil flow, even, when according to Congressman Ed Markey, their own estimates, internal estimates, said it could be much higher.
Now, even last night, they provided practically no real-time explanation of what is going on underwater. Last night, when they were attaching the cap, we called BP to learn more about the operation, and we got voice-mail. A company that made nearly $6 billion in profits in a single quarter this year cannot afford to pay a person to talk in real time about what's going on down there, like they do when a space shuttle goes off?
Just tonight our, producer Jack Gray discovered that, even if BP won't come on this program, which they won't -- and that's their right -- they're more than happy to use CNN. Take a look at this.
Jack Gray looked at their -- BP's Twitter page. Now, they have tweeted about CNN coverage five times in the last 24 hours, cherry- picking only reports they seem to like. They have got a tweet up: "CNN's Tom Foreman explains why oil can still be seen coming from the cap and how it will be carefully sealed."
Now, why don't they actually explain to us in real time about the sealing of that cap, instead of tweeting about our coverage of it? This one tweet's about COO Doug Suttles' appearance on "AMERICAN MORNING."
He will go on a morning show, but, again, neither Mr. Suttles nor any other senior BP senior executive will come on 360. And they don't actually tweet about our repeated invitations to them either.
And this tweet we saw, too: "ROVs are doing much of the work underwater. This CNN video shows how tough it is to maneuver these machines."
Well, no doubt. But they're not doing, though, is telling the whole story in their tweets. They're not talking much about the grim specifics. They're not talking about the oil-covered birds. They're not talking about what is really going on.
So, again, despite repeated invitations, they're not coming on this program, and they're not tweeting about that, all of which is their privilege, but it is not transparency in any definition of the word. And, all things considered, it seems a bit late and a bit inappropriate for spin.
Just ahead tonight: what people down here think of President Obama's latest visit. We will also talk to Ed Henry about what happened behind the scenes.
And that beach from his last visit, remember, with the bussed-in allegedly bogus cleanup crews? Their employer said it was no fluke and that they would be back? Well, you will see what we found at that exact beach today, "Keeping Them Honest."
And an update on the birds, how the oil is affecting them, how bad the problem is. Remember, last night, we reported a big uptick. In the last, I believe it was the last 24, 48 hours, they have seen as many birds as they have seen in the prior five weeks. We will also show you the people helping them and how you, too, can help.
COOPER: And welcome back. We're live in New Orleans.
Someone has just started playing a trumpet off in the distance in the park that we're broadcasting from.
As we said earlier -- that is New Orleans, after all -- as we said earlier, President Obama today made his third visit since the spill.
"Keeping Them Honest," remember his second visit, all those people who were cleaning the beach when he was there, hundreds of them bussed in, apparently just for the day, how they left as soon as the president did, and local residents said they had never seen them before? And remember how the BP subcontractor who hired them said, no, no, no, this was no one-day thing. Well, here was the beach today. Do you see hundreds of cleanup workers? No. We don't either. And the beach is covered in tar and oil. We will talk to Ed Henry about that in a moment.
It's in this area where -- where -- where so much focus has been. Mr. Obama was here today to listen and to be heard. He's been criticized by some, of course, for not showing enough outrage on behalf of the Gulf.
In Grand Isle today, he met face to face with fishermen, shrimpers and other local workers. Here's some of what he told them.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: These are folks who are used to hardship and know how to deal with it.
But what they're concerned about right now is, is this going to have a lasting impact that they can't recover from? And that's why Thad and the rest of the federal team is so committed to making sure that everything that can be done will be done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So, if today was a do-over, how did the president do this time?
Ed Henry joins me -- Ed.
ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's interesting.
I think, clearly, there was a lot of this criticism that maybe he hadn't emoted enough. He hadn't met with real people. So, they tried to do that. When I have been talking to senior aides before this trip, they have been insisting to me, look, most of the American people are blaming BP for this. They don't blame the president.
And, yet, when I was driving through the streets of Grand Isle today, there was a sign on the side of the road, a lot of signs, anger about all of this. And one of them said, BP and President Obama have essentially destroyed our way of life.
It suggests that there's frustration not just with the company, but with the government as well. But when you see those pictures of the president getting down there with the shrimp, talking to real people, the mayor there basically said to him, you know, Mr. President, no disrespect to Thad Allen, who was there, no disrespect to, you know, even the company, even BP, but once you got more involved, this is moving quicker.
And so I think...
COOPER: Right. (CROSSTALK)
COOPER: We have heard that from a lot of local officials...
COOPER: ... and Billy Nungesser among them.
HENRY: So, I think he did do himself a lot of good, because he finally looked like he wasn't just doing the briefings with the governors, the briefings with the federal and local officials, as important as they are -- and he did that again today. He actually mingled with the real people hurt.
COOPER: He also drove -- I mean, there was a pouring rain, so he wasn't able to helicopter. He actually drove like the two-and-a-half- hour drive...
HENRY: Two-and-a-half hours.
COOPER: ... on these little, small...
HENRY: It's a long drive.
COOPER: ... roads to -- to Grand Isle, which scored a lot of -- for a lot of people around here, that -- that -- that meant something.
HENRY: That helped him.
Now, from a P.R. standpoint, it kind of hurt him, because, if he had helicoptered, he would have gotten there a lot sooner, and those pictures would have been on the nightly news that we just saw. They were not, because he actually arrived around the time of the nightly news. So, he -- he didn't get out there.
But you're right. Locally, people saw it. And the people that he talked to -- I talked to the owner, by the way, of the bait and tackle shop where he was when he had the shrimp. And the guy told me, look, I'm basically closed down, because there are no fishermen here. They're not buying my stuff. But, you know, I don't blame the president, because he's trying as hard as he can.
And the owner told me, look, what can he do? This is 5,000 feet underground. He's trying. You have got to give him more time.
COOPER: So, you went to the beach on Grand Isle...
COOPER: ... where the president had been the last time he came, and all those workers had been bussed in. What -- were they there this time? Were they actually -- were there people up there cleaning?
HENRY: There were a small number of workers, not the hundreds that we saw last time. So, that was different.
The much bigger difference, though, was that, last time, there was very little oil on the beach. One week later, take a look at what we found.
HENRY: Now, what a difference one week can make here in Grand Isle. I was doing live shots on this very beach last Friday, when President Obama was here. And I was making the point that all they really had were things about this size, tar balls that were basically sand mixed with oil.
That was it. The rest of the beach was in pretty good shape. Now take a look at this. These are the booms that are filled with water to create a barrier, but there's oil all around them that have come this far offshore. It's all caked up here.
And if you come around, what's really amazing is, there was a security officer who told me that we can't cross here without protective gear. And I asked him, who would I get permission? Who would I get the gear from? He said BP.
I didn't think BP was in charge anymore. I thought the federal government was, number one. And, number two, I didn't know BP was in charge of the beach. But, nevertheless, we will -- we won't get too deep in here.
But if you look at this stick, you can get an idea of just how nasty and thick. It's -- it's extremely thick, like some sort of thick pudding. And you get an idea of just how much oil is washing up on these shores and why people here are so scared about their livelihoods.
COOPER: Yes, they -- yesterday, they were saying the tides had turned around Grand Isle and that -- and a large amount of oil was coming up.
And -- and it's in those last 24 hours that we have really seen a big uptick in terms of the number of birds. And we got those pictures yesterday, birds just coated in oil.
COOPER: But what you are saying about this private security guard is really interesting.
COOPER: This wasn't a public police officer. This was a private security guard, who said....
HENRY: Yes. And this is a public beach.
COOPER: Right, who said...
COOPER: ... you have got to go talk to BP.
HENRY: Yes. And he -- and my producer Shawna Shepherd said, you have got to talk to BP to get permission to get the right protective gear.
And, obviously, we want to be safe. We don't...
HENRY: You know, we don't know what's washing around in that oil...
HENRY: ... and the dispersants and all that.
But we wanted to go out and get the story. And they said you have got to check with BP, essentially.
BP doesn't run a public beach. And I also thought the federal government had taken on a bigger role. You know, bottom line is, from what I saw last week and this week, one of the signs on the side of the road I saw today was, "End this nightmare."
HENRY: People want it to be over.
COOPER: Yes, everyone does.
Ed, appreciate it. Thanks very much, Ed Henry.
A lot more on the oil disaster ahead.
COOPER: Excuse me.
First, let's check some of the other stories making headlines tonight.
Joe Johns has a 360 news and business bulletin -- Joe.
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, tomorrow, President Obama plans to nominate retired Air Force Lieutenant General James Clapper to be the new director of national intelligence. That's according to a senior U.S. defense official.
Clapper is currently a top Pentagon intelligence official. If confirmed, he would replace Dennis Blair, who resigned just last week.
Dozens of angry Peruvians shouted at murder suspect Joran Van Der Sloot as Chilean police handed him over to Peruvian authorities. The Dutch man is accused of killing a 21-year-old woman in his Lima hotel room and fleeing to Chile.
Van Der Sloot is also a suspect in the 2005 disappearance of Natalee Holloway, the Alabama teenager who vanished in Aruba. He's denied any role in Holloway's disappearance and the murder in Peru.
McDonald's is recalling 12 million drinking glasses sold to promote the new movie "Shrek" because the paint on them contains the toxic metal cadmium. It's a carcinogen that can cause kidney and bone damage.
And new research published in the journal "Thorax" suggests high hamburger consumption is associated with higher rates of asthma in kids. High means three or more burgers a week. The study does not prove burgers cause asthma. It may be just that people who eat a lot of burgers share other risk factors for the disease -- Anderson.
COOPER: Wow, interesting. All right, Joe, thanks.
Next on the program, BP's embattled CEO, Tony Hayward, in the spotlight tonight, in the hot seat. Wait until you hear what he said today. We'll have it for you after the break.
Also tonight, a lot more coated in oil. We've seen the images. What exactly does the oil do to these birds? We'll have that story for you coming up.
COOPER: Well, it's been well documented, the head of BP, Tony Hayward, certainly has a way with words. And with each sound bite, he seems to create even more outrage here. He certainly did that today, speaking to investors on a conference call. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TONY HAYWARD, CEO, BP (via phone): I'm a Brit, so sticks and stones can hurt your bones, but words will never break them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Odd. BP's CEO, Tony Hayward, in his own words. Not exactly what people want to hear here. It seems that is exactly what they expect now from the man many consider public enemy No. 1.
Here's Randi Kaye.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At only 22, he earned a Ph.D. in geology. Oil companies lined up to recruit him. Tony Hayward chose BP. And 25 years later, he'd worked his way up from a rig geologist to revered BP's CEO. And now suddenly, a punching bag for all of the anger about the Gulf oil catastrophe. Call it his blunt talk or call it his extreme insensitivity, it's not working for him.
DAN GROSS, "NEWSWEEK": He has made Churchillian statements like, "We will defend the beaches."
HAYWARD: We're doing everything we can to contain the oil offshore, defend the shoreline.
GROSS: But the beaches haven't been defended. There is tar and oil that is washing up on those shores. And when that starts to happen, your credibility evaporates rather quickly.
KAYE: "Newsweek's" Dan Gross says Hayward must have misplaced the playbook for executives in crisis. Instead of coming off in charge, he says he comes off glib.
Hayward is now 53, married with two children. As CEO of BP, he runs a $240 billion global business. Several weeks into what is now a catastrophe, Hayward, who loves to sail, took heat for calling the amount of oil lost relatively tiny compared with the very big ocean. He made headlines suggesting oil plumes didn't exist below the surface.
Just weeks ago, he reportedly asked fellow executives, "What the hell did we do to deserve this?" as if BP was somehow the victim. Then this, the remark that seems to have struck deepest.
HAYWARD: There's no one who wants this thing over more than I do. You know, I'd like my life back.
KAYE: He later apologized on BP's Facebook page: "I made a hurtful and thoughtless comment. I apologize, especially to the families of the 11 men who lost their lives in this tragic accident."
(on camera) No matter what he says and no matter how much BP's stock plummets, Hayward remains highly compensated. As BP's CEO, he earned $4.5 million last year. Do the math, and we figured that works out to more than $12,000 a day. And yes, that includes every day crude continues to seep into the Gulf waters.
(voice-over) Still, Lisa Margonelli, who has written books about the oil industry, says criticism goes with the territory.
LISA MARGONELLI, AUTHOR: If you're an oil executive, you don't expect anyone to love you. I mean, you basically have become the human pin cushion.
KAYE: That hasn't stopped BP from trying to sell the softer side of its CEO in this new TV ad.
HAYWARD: To those affected and your families, I'm deeply sorry. We will get this done. We will make this right.
KAYE: Sounds good, but critics call it corporate spin. And say the $50 million used to make the ad and buy air time would have been better spent given to those hurt by the spill. In terms of stopping the leak, Hayward himself told "The Financial Times," quote, "We did not have the tools you would want in your toolkit."
We called BP to get a comment from Hayward, but the company didn't make him available.
(on camera) At least one U.S. politician is calling on Hayward to resign. But don't count on it. Today Hayward told BP investors he's, quote, "unscathed," that the company is performing well. Its first quarter earnings before the disaster among the very best.
Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.
COOPER: BP's CEO Tony Hayward, under fire, as always.
Let's get reaction from Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser and presidential historian Douglas Brinkley.
Billy, I mean, when you heard that BP was paying $50 million, according to CNNmoney, for this ad campaign where you have Tony Hayward on TV reading from a teleprompter saying, "I'm sorry," and you know fishermen, you know shrimpers who are still waiting for checks, what do you think?
BILLY NUNGESSER, PARISH PRESIDENT, PLAQUEMINES PARISH: I'm outraged. How can you -- I can't understand it. You know, it's just -- nothing adds up in what this guy's saying.
We can't get approval from BP to put four skimmers in the water to save our marsh, which wouldn't cost what he's spending on trying to tell everybody what a great job he's doing.
COOPER: You're saying essentially they don't know how to clean up these marshes. You've got proposals for skimmers to try to suck the water out. Suck the mud up.
NUNGESSER: I can't get BP to approve them. And we've got a meeting tomorrow, but tomorrow's the last day. We're putting them to work tomorrow regardless.
COOPER: Doug, I mean -- I mean, I know you want Tony Hayward to either resign or be replaced as CEO. As he told investors, though, today, he's not going anywhere.
DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, we may not be going anywhere, but BP is moving beyond Tony Hayward. President Obama in the Gulf south, in Louisiana, you don't see him in a photo op with Tony Hayward. He's volatile; toxic to be near him at this point.
This commercial that he made has backfired. The $50 million or whatever it took to try to persuade us in the middle of the worst environmental disaster in American history that somehow they're in this repentance mode was a waste of money. It should have gone to a nonprofit or gone to wetlands rehabilitation project.
And I think, because of the hard words the president had directed at BP today, you're not going to see Tony Hayward as the face of the disaster any more for the company. He's being replaced by Mr. Dudley. So he's still CEO, but we're not going to be having to hear his foot- in-his-mouth ridiculous comments that this spill was just a drop in the bucket of the Gulf of Mexico.
COOPER: What I don't understand -- and Billy, you -- you talked to BP because they don't talk to me -- but you talk to them closer, I'm sure. You know, they said early on -- Tony Hayward said early on he wanted to be transparent. They were going to be transparent in their operations. But really from day one, they have not been transparent. We know about them low-boiling -- balling and sticking to this low estimate on the oil, how much was coming out, basically not putting out this videotape until they had their arms twisted by congress to do that.
And now even what stunned me about last night when they're doing this capping procedure, they could have had someone like at a NASA launch of the space shuttle just explaining what was happening. But they don't. And we called up the unified command center for information, and they had all gone home. I mean, this is incredibly vital, important information, and they -0- there's nobody there to answer the phone.
NUNGESSER: Anderson, it's everything. You know, we've been hearing 30 acres of wetlands impacted in Plaquemines for the last six weeks. We went out and GPS'ed it. It's a little over 3,000. That's quite a big difference. How can they stick to a 30-acre and it's over 3,000?
And he's still denying that there's oil under the surface. And we've got six scientists that have seen it out there. It's incredible. They're continuing to try to deceive the public.
COOPER: Even -- I mean, Tony Hayward, even when he attempts to say, like, you know, "We're sorry," he ends up with saying, you know, "I want my life back." He seems unable to -- for somebody who is head of such a large, global corporation, he seems remarkably tone deaf to this area.
NUNGESSER: And they're paying people, I believe, to tell him what to say.
COOPER: Well, that's the thing. It's not as if he's out there on his own, making decisions. He's got a team of people.
NUNGESSER: The PR people have a whole fleet of condos leased in Venice.
COOPER: Is that right?
NUNGESSER: Oh, yes. And they're really nice condos. And I heard all the PR firm was staying in those condos down in Venice. They're sure not -- they're not worrying their keep. COOPER: And Doug, I mean, the world is watching these operations with bated breath. You know, tens of thousands of fishermen are watching this capping procedure, hundreds of thousands of people in this area whose livelihoods depend on what happens. And there's no one there to answer questions about what is happening or to even explain what is happening in real time. We have to wait all night until the morning to get some statement from the Coast Guard.
BRINKLEY: It's the arrogance of BP. It's the fourth largest company in the world. They are used to getting what they want. They've used the Gulf of Mexico, Louisiana and Alaska, BP. They treat it as a third-world oil field where they do what they want. They are actually resentful towards people that care about the environment or to people that live around these areas. They have one goal: make a lot of money. Get in there, get it out and bring the money home.
Tony Hayward's having a rude awakening. The American people have revolted against him. He's become like a Ken Lay of Enron type of figure, somebody who's a pariah.
COOPER: As always, we invite him on this program. We invite any BP official on this program. They have yet to have taken up our invitation for the last several weeks. Doug Brinkley, Billy Nungesser, thanks.
NUNGESSER: Thank you.
COOPER: Next on the program, the plight of the birds devastated by the spill. The desperate efforts to save them.
Also tonight, the health risks of this disaster. What we know and what we don't know, perhaps as importantly. Dr. Sanjay Gupta answering questions, your questions, when we continue live from Louisiana.
COOPER: There are hundreds, maybe thousands of species of fish and wildlife being threatened by this disaster. There's no way, really, of knowing the exact toll right now. Maybe ever.
These pictures, though, speak volumes of what is at stake. We've shown you these images. We've told you the stories of birds coated in heavy oil being pulled from the waters, especially over the past 24, 48 hours. We've also taken you to the center in Louisiana which is trying to save these birds.
But what does the oil do this them exactly? That's what we wanted to figure out tonight and how are the animals treated? Here's Gary Tuchman.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They had spent their lives soaring over the Gulf of Mexico. Now these brown pelicans are caked with oil, huddled together in a box. They are the latest wildlife victims of the BP oil disaster.
HEATHER NEVILLE, INTERNATIONAL BIRD RESCUE RESEARCH CENTER: We don't know when they come in, if they'll survive.
TUCHMAN: Dr. Heather Neville is a veterinarian with the International Bird Rescue Research Center, working out of a warehouse where all rescued Louisiana birds are going.
NEVILLE: The thing that affects them the most immediately are changes in body temperature.
TUCHMAN: Birds rely on healthy feathers to regulate body temperature. When oil gets on them, the feathers clump, and that's a big problem.
NEVILLE: Typically, they become colder, especially if they're in cold water, but if they're in the sun and can't get out of the sun, they can become hot.
TUCHMAN (on camera): Either way, it might kill them.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): It might surprise you, but when the birds ingest oil, it's not as grave of a concern.
NEVILLE: There may be health effects down the road, but it may be a longer term chronic health effect. It doesn't necessarily cause death.
TUCHMAN: The birds get blood tests to see if they're anemic. Doctors check to see if they're eating regularly, and their feathers get a sort of waterproofing test. Healthy pelicans are nearly dry right after they get out of the water.
NEVILLE: If a pelican is in the pool and jumps out and is completely saturated wet, then they're not ready to be released yet.
TUCHMAN: The silver bands on these pelicans' legs mean they've been cleared for release. They will be flown on a plane to Tampa this weekend to go back into the wild.
But what's the prognosis for the seven new arrivals?
(on camera) To me, a non-veterinarian, they look like they're in pain. They're shivering.
NEVILLE: Pelicans will actually shiver for a variety of different reasons. So the shivering doesn't bother me that much. They are resting. The ones with their heads up are likely more stable. The ones with their heads down are likely a little more quiet.
TUCHMAN: Do you think they'll all survive?
NEVILLE: It's hard to predict, but I would expect that, with birds that come in able to stand and able to move around in a pen like this and that came in relatively quickly, I would suspect they would survive.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): More birds have been brought here in the last 24 hours than the previous six weeks combined, a discouraging sign of the rapidly spreading oil flow in the Gulf.
COOPER: That is really a telling statistic, that more birds have been brought in, in the last 24 hours than the entire previous six weeks. That's stunning.
TUCHMAN: I mean, these people who work there don't even need to watch the news to know that things are getting worse in the Gulf right now.
COOPER: Right. So if somebody -- we get a lot of e-mails from somebody. If somebody sees a bird covered in oil, then what should they do? You know, your instinct is you want to go and try to help them.
TUCHMAN: It's very tempting. I'm walking on the beach and I see one of these birds with oil all over its beak and its body, I'm going to want to wipe it off. But they say please don't, because it could traumatize the bird because these are experts who are doing the work. They say call wildlife officials. Call police if you don't know how to call wildlife officials. Call a lifeguard, and they will come right out and take the bird.
But they're saying please don't try to clean the bird yourself. And definitely don't take the birds home as pets. A lot of people want to take these birds home as pets. They're wild animals.
COOPER: And they obviously don't re-release them into this area.
TUCHMAN: No. What they're doing is they're releasing them -- these particular birds that we featured in the story are being taken on an airplane. They're on a plane, not flying with their own wings, but fly on a plane to Tampa, and they're going to be released in the Tampa Bay area.
COOPER: Gary, appreciate the update. Thanks very much.
Next on 360, the health effects from the catastrophe. What we know and what we don't know. Dr. Sanjay Gupta answers your questions on the risks posed to people here in the gulf. A lot of oil and dangers. What you need to know. Especially also about the food from here, coming up.
COOPER: Late word tonight on those underwater oil plumes. Researchers at the University of South Florida today completed lab testing on water samples, confirming, they say, that there are plumes of oil beneath the surface. Plumes, plural, they say. BP denies the existence of even one.
So many of have you been sending us a lot of questions not only about plumes and things but about also about the possible health risks associated with this spill. Questions about whether the seafood is safe to eat or how harmful the tar balls on beaches can be.
So we brought in Dr. Sanjay Gupta to answer some of your questions.
And by the way, we've all been eating seafood here, and it's great, as it always is.
SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right.
COOPER: You should not cancel any trips to New Orleans. New Orleans is up and running and fine. The food is great, as always.
So here's a question from Jacques (ph) in Mobile, Alabama -- Mobile. Jacques (ph) says, "What health problems could the dispersant cause? I still don't understand why BP continues to use it."
GUPTA: It's interesting. This is a dispersant that was banned in Europe. And a lot of people know that now.
I talked to the administrator of the EPA, Lisa Jackson, about that very thing and pointed out that, you know, there's a list of 18 dispersants, and out of that list, this is one of the most toxic. And there are ones that are much more effective and less toxic.
So you know, it's unclear why they continue to use it. She told me they have encouraged BP to stop using this particular substance.
Now, this is actually from the company's Web site. It's classified as a hazardous substance. One of the things we talked about the other day, it says you have to use adequate ventilation and certainly use some sort of mask or breathing apparatus. So many of those images of people with literally their face in the oil dispersant.
COOPER: Right. They're not -- they're not using it at all.
GUPTA: No mask.
COOPER: Here's another one. This is from Doug in Memphis. "What are the risks to all the seafood from the Gulf? Could it be tainted?"
GUPTA: You know, there's about 37 percent of the Gulf that is now off-limits to fishing. You know that. That's bigger than the state of Minnesota, just to give you a scale of reference. They've been pretty strict about not letting fishermen go (ph) there. So the Coast Guard is going around, patrolling. The boats are not part of the cleanup efforts. They're getting booted out, so they're not fishing there.
What we can say and feel pretty comfortable saying this, is that the fish that's making it to market, all kinds of seafood that's making it to market is safe. Eventually, in the long term, because this is a long-term issue, they're going to have to test the fish in this particular area, which means looking for heavy metals in the tissue itself and making sure that it's safe before they open up that area again.
COOPER: And I went out yesterday to Dean Blanchard's Shrimp Shack. He's actually a shrimp buyer who buys from all the fishermen. They're still buying, still, about 30,000 pounds of shrimp a day; normally about 500,000 pounds. And he tests the shrimp. Each batch that comes in, they put it -- yes, they put it in the water, see if any oil comes off it. And he boiled up those shrimp, and I ate them right there. They're -- taste amazing.
GUPTA: They're tasty.
COOPER: Really tasty.
GUPTA: If you do get a piece of what might be considered contaminated shrimp with some of this oil, you might get a little sick. You might get a little nauseated, but you know, this is something you recover from pretty quickly. It's just people who eat a lot of contaminated shrimp.
COOPER: But again, I mean, in New Orleans, in all these regions, the food is still great. Businesses are open. The restaurants are amazing. So please do not cancel reservations. Still come to New Orleans. They certainly need it.
Eddie in Navarre (ph) Beach, Florida, wrote, "I'm wondering about the tar balls." He says people are walking through them, spreading the tar around.
GUPTA: Yes. The way to think about this is that, certainly, one of the good things, if there is a good thing, is that this occurred 50 miles out into the ocean. So what happens as this oil is coming in, even this oil-dispersant mixture starts to make its way towards shore, it does become weathered, so to speak. So it has all these volatile, organic compounds, VOCs. I'm sure that term has been thrown around a lot. They evaporate quickly. So as it gets further and further in, it becomes less and less toxic.
Tar balls on the beach, if you touch them, they may irritate your skin a little bit. By the time it gets to the beach, you don't need to wear a mask because all those VOCs are gone. Don't touch them. If you get your shoes in them, take your shoes off before you walk in your house. Simple precautions like that.
COOPER: I'm going to have some crab cakes Oceanerie (ph).
GUPTA: I'll go with you.
COOPER: All right. We're going to have more from the Gulf at the top of the hour. We'll be back here on Monday, as well. Have a great weekend.