New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg became a lonely defender of BP PLC on Friday, declaring the world should not rush to point fingers at the British oil giant for the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
The billionaire mayor, a former CEO, became the most prominent politician to embrace BP, whose offshore rig exploded in April, killing 11 workers and setting off what has become the nation's worst oil spill. Scientists say the spill could now involve 42 million to more than 100 million gallons.
Bloomberg, who often sides with CEOs and private businesses entangled in public relations catastrophes, said he'd rather have BP worrying about stopping the leak than devising a legal strategy.
"The guy that runs BP didn't exactly go down there and blow up the well," Bloomberg said on his weekly radio show. "And what's more, if we want them to fix it and they're the only ones with the expertise, I think I might wait to assign blame."
The federal government is conducting civil and criminal investigations into BP's preparedness and the spill.
An analysis this week by The Associated Press found that BP's regional spill plan for the Gulf and a site-specific plan for the Louisiana rig contained glaring errors, including the listing of a professor as a wildlife specialist even though he died in 2005.
The company also described in the plan a scenario for spill worse than the real-life disaster, in which fish, marine mammals and birds escape serious harm, beaches remain pristine and water quality is only a temporary problem.
While some lawmakers have criticized the Obama administration's response to the spill, there have been few voices outright defending BP, and none as well-known as New York's third-term mayor.
The founder of the financial information company that bears his name has a fortune estimated at $18 billion by Forbes magazine and toyed with the idea of running for president in 2008. The Republican-turned-independent is occasionally mentioned as a wild card contender for 2012.
Bloomberg has a long history of defending big companies in cases where it was extremely unpopular and unusual to do so.
Last year he sided with bailed-out banks that didn't want to disclose which employees got bonuses, and he likened New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's quest for information about bonuses to "snooping around."
He also defended pharmaceutical companies and their CEOs, insisting they "don't make a lot of money" and shouldn't be scapegoats in the health care debate.
And when New Yorkers struggled through a series of summer blackouts, Bloomberg repeatedly took sides with the management of the utility company, Consolidated Edison.
Amid a July 2006 blackout that left 100,000 Queens residents in the dark for several days, Bloomberg applauded Con Ed and said CEO Kevin Burke "deserves a thanks from this city."
On Friday, Bloomberg said everyone is to blame for a society that places too much emphasis on ... blame.
"Unfortunately it's not any one person or one party or one branch of government" that looks for culprits, he said. "There's got to be somebody that's culpable in everything — c'mon!"
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