CBS Grills BP Official, Lobbed Softballs at Energy Secretary

Maggie Rodriguez and Doug Suttles, CBS On Friday's CBS Early Show, co-host Maggie Rodriguez interrogated BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles on the Gulf oil spill: "Can you can understand why a Congressman told us that BP has lost all credibility?" However, on Thursday, fellow co-host Harry Smith went easy on Energy Secretary Ken Salazar, allowing the Obama administration official to shift blame to the oil company.

Rodriguez pressed Suttles repeatedly: "But it seems like every day we hear new allegations that BP had been cutting corners beforehand....So many of these keep mounting. How can you keep responding to this?...are you confident that BP will survive this?"

In contrast, Smith never asked Salazar if the Obama administration could "survive" its failures in responding to the crisis. Instead, he gave the cabinet secretary every opportunity to go after BP: "...The CEO of BP says the environmental impact in the Gulf is going to be minimal. Is this guy in touch with reality?" As NewsBusters' Scott Whitlock noted on Thursday, hosts on both the ABC and NBC morning shows actually had some tough questions for Salazar.

Before Rodriguez's interview with Suttles, correspondent Mark Strassmann reported on the spill from Louisiana and actually mentioned public anger not just at BP, but at the government as well: "...as more oil does wash ashore, a deepening frustration and fury and gloom is also settling here. Harsh feelings directed toward BP and the federal government."

Strassmann explained how: "People in Grand Isle had wanted the feds to build sand barriers. They're still asking, but less politely." A clip was played of one local official pleading: "We want them to get off their butts, excuse my French. I'm telling you that you've got to give us a permit."

Despite featuring that criticism of the government response, Strassmann still credited Congress for putting "pressure" on BP. He featured a clip of Democratic Massachusetts Congressman Ed Markey: "BP has lost all credibility. Now the decisions will have to be made by others, because it's clear that they have been hiding the actual consequences of this spill."

Strassmann later followed up: "BP's credibility is a major frustration, a complaint here, a sense that the company will not give people here the straight story about the magnitude of this disaster." He touted how "Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano agrees" and announced that she "has sent a letter to the company demanding a full and public disclosure."   

When will CBS join its network colleagues and start to question the Obama administration's credibility on this issue?

Here is a full transcript of Rodriguez's May 21 interview with Suttles:
7:09AM EST

MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: Joining us now from Robert, Louisiana is BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles. Mr. Suttles, Good morning.

DOUG SUTTLES: Good morning, Maggie.

RODRIGUEZ: We've learned that BP has been using toxic chemicals to break up this oil. That you grossly underestimated the size of the leak, that Congress had to pressure you to reveal this live video feed of the well. Can you can understand why a Congressman told us that BP has lost all credibility?

SUTTLES: Well, Maggie, I understand the frustration. I know people want more information. I know they want – actually, they want this thing to come to an end, they want us to be able to clean it up very, very quickly and we're trying to do these things. I can tell you we're supplying information, we're trying to give the data as quick as we can. We've tried to upload the video to our website. I think that's up now. The chemicals we're using for dispersants are actually approved by the EPA.

RODRIGUEZ: Yes, they are now.

SUTTLES: They're actually the most widely used chemical in the industry.

RODRIGUEZ: But it seems like every day we hear new allegations that BP had been cutting corners beforehand. The most recent one is the company that was hired by BP to test the integrity of the well says that they were told to stop before the explosion, before they were finished. So many of these keep mounting. How can you keep responding to this?

SUTTLES: Maggie, I understand that people are very concerned and they're trying to find what's wrong. And I can understand that. Lots of things are being looked at. There's – as you know, there's many investigations taking place. I know they'll get to the bottom of what caused this and I know they'll figure out what needs to change. But at the moment, as you know, what I'm trying to do is figure out how do we get this thing stopped, how do we minimize the impact, and how do we fight this thing at sea.

RODRIGUEZ: So as the individual who is most focused on the response to this cleanup and stopping this leak, what is the best case scenario and the worst case scenario?

SUTTLES: Maggie, I think the best case scenario is actually either late Sunday or early Monday this 'top kill' procedure works and the flow stops. I know we all want that to occur. I know everyone is behind that. I think the worst case is it takes us until the relief well gets down, which would probably be about early August. But between now and then, we'll try every technique available to us to actually get this flow stopped.

RODRIGUEZ: There are a lot of people who say they're not sure if the environment will survive this. Are you confident that it will? And are you confident that BP will survive this?

SUTTLES: It's hard to actually know for certain because I'm not an expert, but I do know there have been larger spills in the Gulf of Mexico and the Gulf of Mexico has survived. The experts actually tell me that there are many things going for us in this case. It's a – it's a large body of water, it's a warm body of water, it has natural oil seeps which the environment deals with. But we're going to put a lot of effort into monitoring this and we're going to do everything we can to minimize that impact. Time will tell, but I'm optimistic, I'm very optimistic that the Gulf will fully recover.

RODRIGUEZ: And as for your company?

SUTTLES: You know, Maggie, there are over almost 100,000 employees for BP, I think about 40,000 in the United States. We're the largest investor in oil and gas in the United States, we're the biggest producer. I believe we will. We have a great team of people that are very dedicated, their commitment has shown up. I'm very, very proud of what they're actually doing. And I believe we will. I believe we'll-

RODRIGUEZ: Our satellite seems to have frozen up, but we thank Doug Suttles for his time morning.
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC