Facebook group defends “harassed” BP

June 18, 2010

OIL-SPILL/

BP’s chief executive Tony Hayward branded “the most hated man in America” may be surprised to find himself cast in the role of victim by a growing clan of web-based supporters on Facebook.

One such group ‘Support BP’ calls itself the defender of an “undeservedly harassed institution” and seeks to show that the public opprobrium BP faces over its now 60-day-old Gulf of Mexico oil spill is not universal.

Members have been increasingly vocal since a succession of strong rebukes of BP by U.S. President Obama and lawmakers at Thursday’s congressional hearing, which they are calling a “lynch mob”.

The outburst of sympathy follows an apology to Hayward from Texas Republican Representative Joe Barton on Thursday, later withdrawn, for having to agree to a deal with President Obama to set up a $20 billion fund for Gulf claim damages.

Some of the Facebook posts echoed this same spirit of regret: “My apologies as an American to Tony Hayward for the rude and insulting conduct as well as the rush to judgement by U.S. politicians on 16/7,” wrote George Gray, 50, from Pennsylvania, referring to Thursday’s hearing.

The bulk of the group’s posts are written by Americans.

One woman offered financial support, brandishing a copy of her BP petrol receipt as proof of her solidarity with the oil major’s plight.

“I buy BP petroleum products and I am proud to say that I do so. Did BP have an accident? Yes. Are they working hard to correct the problem? Yes,” said Lara Olmos from Georgia.

Others urged readers to look beyond “dead fish” to the potential damage of the “Obama hysterics” on the future of BP and transatlantic relations.

“Our concern is Obama’s folly and injustice,” said the site master and received 42 votes of approval from group members.

Members also cheered a brief BP share price rally on Thursday.

Pity for the beleaguered oil major is still a marginal sentiment. On Friday the ‘Support BP’ site had 1,039 fans while the ‘Boycott BP’ site had 652,128.

But it shows that for some, victim-status has shifted from drowning birds and idle fishermen to the hunched, penitent figure of Tony Hayward in the dock even as the oil continues to spew from the BP rig.

Picture credit: BP CEO Tony Hayward walks past protesters as he arrives to testify about the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico at the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Capitol Hill, June 17, 2010.     REUTERS/Larry Downing

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