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CNN "American Morning" - Transcript

Interview

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COSTELLO (voice-over): It was perhaps the mother of all hearings so far.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is one of the most important hearings that this Congress will ever have. COSTELLO: The man many consider BP's top villain, Tony Hayward, on the hot seat, alone, and silent for more than an hour while lawmakers let him have it.

REP. BART STUPAK (D), MICHIGAN: Mr. Hayward, I'm sure you will get your life back and with a golden parachute back to England.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't want to know whether you're distraught.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think you're insulting our intelligence.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it true that it is just all about profit?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is unconscionable.

COSTELLO: It isn't the first hearing in which a BP executive has been, as Congressman Bart Stupak described it --

STUPAK: Fairly sliced and diced.

COSTELLO: On Tuesday, with BP America CEO Lamar McKay's turn.

REP. JOSEPH CAO (R), LOUISIANA: Mr. Stern asked Mr. Mckay to resign. Well, 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.

COSTELLO: As in suicide. It's the sort of thing you heard after Katrina. There were 24 hearings in the months after the hurricane. In the two months after the BP disaster, there have been 33.

LARRY SABATO, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: A big piece of the congressional hearing process is about attracting attention. Getting congressmen and senators on television, especially in an election year.

COSTELLO: But, it can backfire. Pure politics is why one lawmakers apologized to BP at a hearing held to figure out why oil is still spewing into the gulf.

REP. JOE BARTON (R), TEXAS: I'm ashamed of what happened in the White House yesterday. I think it is a tragedy of the first proportion that a private corporation can be subjected to what I would characterize as a shakedown.

COSTELLO: Republican Congressmen Barton is talking about BP's $20 billion escrow account for jobless claims, orchestrated by the White House. Barton is from oil-rich Texas and feels the Obama administration should be on the hot seat, too. He later retracted his BP apology.

STUPAK: You cut corners to save money and time.

COSTELLO: Still, there are those who insist these hearings do matter. Lee Hamilton who served as vice chair of the 9/11 Commission told me "the process is messy and imprecise, but it's important lawmakers put witnesses on the spot. They are doing their job."

And lawmakers did do that, although their star witness continued to maintain that safety is number one, and he didn't really address those specific examples of when BP allegedly ignored safety for profit.

TONY HAYWARD, BP CEO: I can't possibly know. I don't recall the time. It is impossible for me to answer that question. I'm afraid I can't recall that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's clear to me that you don't want to answer our questions.

COSTELLO: Maybe he and BP will respond differently at the next congressional hearing.

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