This week in crazy: Tony Hayward

BP may not know how to clean up the devastating oil spill, but its CEO sure knows how to whine about it

Topics: This Week in Crazy, Gulf Oil Spill,

This week in crazy: Tony Hayward

When you’re the guy at the top of the corporate ladder that’s ultimately responsible for spewing millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico (and, soon, probably fouling the East Coast as well), it’s not easy to make your reputation even worse than it already is. But Tony Hayward didn’t get to become CEO of BP by doing what was easy.

And so this week, more than a month into the horrific Gulf oil spill, Hayward managed to sink to a new low.

“There’s no one who wants this over more than I do,” the beleaguered oilman told the “Today Show” on Sunday. “You know, I’d like my life back.”

Watch here:

Just like that, anyone who — after weeks of watching BP dissemble, block photographers from the spill and launch an endless succession of failed remedies with dopey names — didn’t already want to aim a junk shot at Hayward must have lost whatever sympathy they had for him. Eleven oil workers were killed in the explosion that sank BP’s rig; the Gulf of Mexico may be permanently ruined; thousands of fishers and shrimpers have lost their livelihood; birds, fish and turtles are dying by the score; some people are starting to wonder if nuking the Deepwater Horizon might be the best way to stop it. And poor Hayward wants his life back.

Then again, can you blame him? That life he wants back is pretty cushy. BP paid Hayward $6 million last year — a 41 percent raise over the year before, even though the company’s profits fell 45 percent.

Every penny of which he must feel he earned. After all, despite a safety record far worse than any of its major competitors, BP somehow pulled off a cynical greenwashing ad campaign, marketing itself as environmentally friendly and declaring itself “beyond petroleum.” So what if it turned out the only thing green about BP was its flowery logo? Hayward, CEO since 2007, had steered the company into a new, Orwellian branding strategy, where merely saying it was taking precautions against accidents and spills was enough.

That magical thinking apparently carried over into the way he processed the spill. Well after scientists had started saying the Deepwater Horizon explosion was already the worst environmental disaster in the nation’s history, Hayward tried to minimize the whole thing. The spill wouldn’t be so bad, he declared, because the Gulf is a “very big ocean.” In fact, it would likely turn out to be a “very, very modest” disaster. (Besides, haven’t you seen our logo? Of course we’re not responsible for the biggest oil spill the U.S. has ever seen!)

Still, it’s one thing to lie about how much oil your company is dumping, and it’s another thing altogether to make yourself seem like the pitiful protagonist of the whole story. And sure enough, by the end of the week, BP’s new PR armada had realized Hayward was making things worse.

So a lengthy apology of sorts was placed (in the sympathetic nest of the Wall Street Journal’s Op-Ed page), and the CEO presumably learned to stop whining.

Maybe now, instead of worrying about what Hayward is going to say next, BP can get back to worrying about how to stop the spill and clean up its mess. Which is what really matters — not poor Hayward’s disrupted routine. After all, Tony, we’d all like our lives back. Unfortunately, thanks to BP, this disaster shows no sign of going away anytime soon.

Mike Madden is Salon's Washington correspondent. A complete listing of his articles is here. Follow him on Twitter here.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Burger King Japan

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Burger King's black cheeseburger: Made with squid ink and bamboo charcoal, arguably a symbol of meat's destructive effect on the planet. Only available in Japan.

    Elite Daily/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    McDonald's Black Burger: Because the laws of competition say that once Burger King introduces a black cheeseburger, it's only a matter of time before McDonald's follows suit. You still don't have to eat it.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    Domino's Specialty Chicken: It's like regular pizza, except instead of a crust, there's fried chicken. The company's marketing officer calls it "one of the most creative, innovative menu items we have ever had” -- brain power put to good use.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    Arby's Meat Mountain: The viral off-menu product containing eight different types of meat that, on second read, was probably engineered by Arby's all along. Horrific, regardless.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    KFC'S ZINGER DOUBLE DOWN KING: A sandwich made by adding a burger patty to the infamous chicken-instead-of-buns creation can only be described using all caps. NO BUN ALL MEAT. Only available in South Korea.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Waffle Taco: It took two years for Taco Bell to develop this waffle folded in the shape of a taco, the stand-out star of its new breakfast menu.

    Michele Parente/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Krispy Kreme Triple Cheeseburger: Only attendees at the San Diego County Fair were given the opportunity to taste the official version of this donut-hamburger-heart attack combo. The rest of America has reasonable odds of not dropping dead tomorrow.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Quesarito: A burrito wrapped in a quesadilla inside an enigma. Quarantined to one store in Oklahoma City.

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Boston Pizza's Pizza Cake: The people's choice winner of a Canadian pizza chain's contest whose real aim, we'd imagine, is to prove that there's no such thing as "too far." Currently in development.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    7-Eleven's Doritos Loaded: "For something decadent and artificial by design," wrote one impassioned reviewer, "it only tasted of the latter."

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>