Video: Obama: ‘We will make BP pay’
Transcript of: Obama: ‘We will make BP pay’
MATT LAUER, co-host: But let's begin this morning with President Obama 's Oval Office address on the disaster in the gulf and his meeting today with BP 's top executives. NBC 's chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd has the latest. Chuck , good morning.
CHUCK TODD reporting: Well, good morning, Matt. Nearly two months since the explosion in the gulf the president sits down for his first ever face-to-face meeting with BP execs, including beleaguered CEO Tony Hayward . The top list on the agenda, making BP pay and pay a lot, something the president re-emphasized last night in his address to the nation.
President BARACK OBAMA: Make no mistake, we will fight this spill with everything we've got for as long as it takes.
TODD: In his first Oval Office address, the president tried to reassure the nation that he's on top of the worst environmental disaster in this nation's history. And he was clear about who he thinks should pay the bill.
Pres. OBAMA: We will make BP pay for the damage their company has caused.
TODD: The president says he will, quote, "inform BP officials when he meets with them this morning that they need to set up a multibillion-dollar claims fund to be run by an independent third party." This as the oil continues to flow into the gulf.
Pres. OBAMA: We have to recognize that, despite our best efforts, oil has already caused damage to our coastline and its wildlife. And sadly, no matter how effective our response is, there will be more oil and more damage before this siege is done.
TODD: The president did lay out a few new initiatives: naming former federal prosecutor Michael Bromwich , with no oil industry experience, the new head of MMS , the government agency in charge of regulating oil drilling ; and directing the Secretary of the Navy Ray Mavis , a former Mississippi governor , to develop a long-term Gulf Coast restoration plan.
Pres. OBAMA: We must make a commitment to the Gulf Coast that goes beyond responding to the crisis of the moment.
TODD: Still, the president acknowledged that some definitive answers are out of his reach and require prayer and courage.
Pres. OBAMA: We pray for that courage. We pray for the people of the gulf and we pray that a hand may guide us through the storm towards a brighter day.
Offscreen Voice: Do you each solemnly swear...
TODD: Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill the heads of all the major oil companies , including BP , were battered by members of both parties at a congressional hearing.
Representative CLIFF STEARNS (Republican, Florida): I really think you should be resigning as chairman of BP America . I'm not asking for an apology, I'm asking you to resign.
Representative CHARLES GONZALEZ (Democrat, Texas): I'm a proponent of offshore drilling . Y'all are not making me look good.
TODD: The executives were hammered for their emergency response plans, which lawmakers pointed out all look nearly identical.
Representative HENRY WAXMAN (Democrat, California): These are cookie cutter plans. Exxon Mobil , Chevron , Conoco Phillips and Shell are as unprepared as BP was.
TODD: But top executives of the other oil companies tried their best to distance themselves from BP .
Mr. JAMES MULVA (Conoco Phillips Chairman and CEO): Most of us sitting here today would have -- by our practices and policies would have drilled the well and handled it differently.
Mr. REX TILLERSON (Exxon Mobil Chairman and CEO): We would not have drilled the well the way they did.
TODD: Not surprisingly, a lot of the anger was directed at BP 's representative on the panel, Lamar McKay . Louisiana Republican Joseph Cao suggested merely resigning would not be enough of a remedy.
Representative JOSEPH CAO: In the Asian culture we do things differently. During the Samurai days we just give you a knife and ask you to commit hara-kiri.
TODD: As for the president's speech, there was something in -- something not in it which made news, and that was the fact that he did not make a pitch for taxing or pricing pollution or this carbon tax which has been very controversial among some Republicans and conservative Democrats on Capitol Hill . A lot of people see that as the first attempt by the president to begin to negotiate a way to get an energy bill out of Congress , Matt.