News / USA

Obama: Tough Talk on Oil Spill

U.S. President Barack Obama is talking tough about the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, after criticism his response to the crisis was delayed or inadequate.

In an interview broadcast on U.S. television Tuesday morning, Mr. Obama said he was speaking with fishermen in the region and experts to determine who needs to be punished, or as he put it, "whose ass to kick."

When asked about what some critics say is his detached demeanor throughout the crisis, Mr. Obama said, quote, "this is not theater."  The president said it is not his job to provide entertainment for cable television pundits.

Mr. Obama defended his own role, saying he had been to the Gulf region three times since the oil rig explosion that caused the massive oil spill.  His first visit, he said, was before many of the political analysts now criticizing him were paying attention to the issue.

And he took a strong stance against the head of oil giant BP Tony Hayward, who has made controversial statements minimizing the impact of the spill and expressing frustration that he "wants his life back."

Mr. Obama said Hayward would "not be working for me" after making such statements.

Monday, the widows of two workers who died in the April 20 oil rig explosion asked Congress to hold BP accountable.  Courtney Kemp and Natalie Roshto said their husbands discussed safety fears with them in phone conversations before the rig exploded. But despite their loss, both women showed strong support for offshore drilling.

Two weeks ago, Mr. Obama said he was extending a ban on new deepwater oil projects for six months to prevent other disasters.

The president has said the economic impact of the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico will be "substantial."  He says he wants to ensure that the Gulf coast fully recovers from the spill, which has coated marshes and wildlife in black ooze and is threatening the livelihoods of the region's fishermen and other business owners.

And he says he wants to make sure oil giant BP is quick and responsive to the claims filed by people who are suffering economically because of the spill.  

Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, who is overseeing the government's response to the disaster, told reporters that a cap placed over the leaking well has captured 11,000 barrels of oil in a 24-hour period.

He said the oil that already has spilled into the Gulf has broken up into "hundreds of thousands" of patches, following the explosion and subsequent sinking of the oil rig off the coast of Louisiana.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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