Bonds News

BP hires ex-Energy Dept official for US media effort

HOUSTON, May 30 (Reuters) - BP BP.L has hired a former U.S. Department of Energy official as head of U.S. media relations, as it fights to defend its reputation in the face of political attacks and public rage over its oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Anne Kolton, former head of public affairs at the DOE, starts this week, the head of group media at London-based BP, Andrew Gowers, said on Sunday.

BP’s media team has been overwhelmed by press and public attention since the Deepwater Horizon rig, which BP hired to drill an oil well, exploded and sank in April, killing 11 workers and unleashing what has become the largest oil spill in U.S. history.

The company has flown in staff from London to help deal with media requests, but has also been forced to put its media hotline on voicemail to process the many calls -- some abusive -- that come in.

The company has also drafted UK-based public and government relations firm Brunswick Group, which has a U.S. unit.

BP, one of the world’s largest oil companies, has come under fire by politicians and local residents who accuse it of not doing enough to deal with the catastrophic spill. Criticism has intensified since oil started washing up on beaches and in swamps in Louisiana. (Reporting by Tom Bergin; Editing by Peter Cooney)