While other congressmen were heaping abuse on BP CEO Tony Hayward in this morning's hearings, one Republican abruptly shifted gears in his opening remarks and apologized to the man in the hot seat. Rep. Joe Barton told Hayward he was "ashamed" of the pressure the White House put on BP to create the $20 billion escrow fund to cover losses to victims of the spill. "I think it's a tragedy of the first proportion that a private corporation can be subjected to what I would call a shakedown," the Texan said. "In this case a $20 billion shakedown."
Barton said the administration has no authority to ask for this "$20 billion slush fund" and that litigation provides adequate due process for awarding damages. "I apologize," he said to Hayward. "I do not want to live in a country where every time a corporation does something wrong, it's subject to a political process that amounts to a shakedown." Later, Dem Rep. Ed Markey begged to differ, noting that litigation by victims of the Exxon Valdez spill took years to be settled, and criminal charges in the 1984 Bhopal disaster in India more than a quarter century. Read more in the Guardian's live blog.