White House criticizes BP CEO over yacht race

WASHINGTON Sat Jun 19, 2010 4:14pm EDT

BP CEO Tony Hayward delivers his opening statement about the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico at the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 17, 2010. Picture taken June 17, 2010. REUTERS/Larry Downing/Files

BP CEO Tony Hayward delivers his opening statement about the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico at the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 17, 2010. Picture taken June 17, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Larry Downing/Files

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House renewed its sharp criticism of BP Plc CEO Tony Hayward after he attended a yacht race off the English coast on Saturday as his company struggles to plug its huge Gulf of Mexico oil leak.

"This has just been part of a long line of PR gaffes and mistakes," White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said in an interview taped for ABC's "This Week" week program, referring to Hayward.

Sheila Williams, a spokeswoman for the British energy giant, said Hayward attended the boat race at the Isle of Wight, saying he was spending some time with his teenage son after devoting most of the past two months away from family.

Obama administration officials and President Barack Obama himself have been harshly critical of Hayward over some public statements he has made since the spill began in April.

Obama wondered aloud in a television interview this month about "whose ass to kick" over the BP spill and said that if Hayward had worked for him, he would have fired him.

Hayward also was widely criticized and quickly apologized for complaining he wanted his "life back" weeks after the April 20 Deepwater Horizon offshore rig explosion that killed 11 workers and led to the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

"Well, to quote Tony Hayward, he's got his life back, as he would say," Emanuel said, commenting on his attendance at the yacht race. "And I think we can all conclude that Tony Hayward is not going to have a second career in PR consulting."

"There's really a substance here that matters," Emanuel added. "That's clearly a PR mistake, but he's made a number of those mistakes. What's important is: are we capping the well? Are we capturing the oil? Are we containing the cleanup? Are we filing the claims? Are we also cleaning up the mess? That's what's important."

(Reporting by Will Dunham; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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