Did we get any real answers from Tony Hayward yesterday when he appeared before an influential Congressional cmmittee? No
Did we get the truth from Hayward, currently depicted as the most hated man in America? No
All we got from Tony Hayward was stone-walling, evasion and a deadpan panto of going through the motions.
One commentator described him as his tone being “of a weary registrar in a South London crematorium. “ Another of playing a “dead-bat.”
Time and again he evaded answers, looking wearilly bored. It was so dead beat and controlled that Hayward was repeatedly accused of “evasiveness,” a lack of candour and a lack of substance in his answers.
To the frustration of America’s congressmen, Hayward repeatedly blanked their answers. At least 13 times in 30 minutes Hayward told the increasingly angry members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce that he was “not part of the decision-making process” that led to the blowout or could not recall whether or not cost-cutting was a factor in that process.
Peter Welch, a Democrat, claimed that Hayward had answered “I don’t know” 65 times.
At 5:30 local time p.m., 7 1/2 hours after the hearing began, Bart Stupak, who is leading the committee’s investigation into the spill, told Hayward: “The evasiveness of your answers only served to increase the frustration, not decrease the frustration, not only of members of Congress but of the American people.”
Hours earlier this frustration had boiled over “BP is a criminal company that ignored crucial safety issues, cut corners and spent millions lobbying Congress to fight regulations,” said Diane Wilson, a fourth generation fisherwoman from the Gulf, who came to Washington especially to confront Mr Hayward and who was led away by security guards.
“BP has a sordid history of recklessly pursuing profits at the expense of workers’ lives and the environment, and it has to be held accountable. BP should not only pay for all the damages, but should face criminal charges” she continued.
The anger was also felt by the members of the committee: One noted: “The anger at BP is at fever pitch. It’s almost palpable.”
But repeatedly Hayward said: “I was not part of the decision making process on this well,” or “I had no prior knowledge.” He also repeated time and again that it would be premature to comment until investigations had run their course.
He infuriated the Congressmen: Ed Markey, who chairs the subcommittee on global warming, snapped: “Your equivocation is not reassuring.” Even the Republican members were frustrated. “You are copping out,” said Phil Gingrey. “It seems like your testimony has been way too evasive.”
Henry Waxman, the energy and commerce committee chairman, said “I am amazed at this testimony. You are kicking the can down the road and pretending you have nothing to do with this accident.”
It is increasingly clear that Hayward will have little to do with the aftermath of the accident once the well is plugged.
One headhunter has likened Hayward to “humpty dumpty”. Gary Burnison, chief executive of KornFerry International, one of the world’s biggest headhunters, told the FT about Hayward:
“For better or worse, once Humpty Dumpty has fallen it’s very hard to put him back together.”
Another commentator for the Times notes: “Whatever he [Hayward] was thinking, what he said made him look like an oil man on the skids. Americans say he looks like Mr Bean. Make that Mr Has-been.”
The FT notes that, Carl-Henric Svanberg, BP’s chairman, is now looking for a replacement for Hayward.
But who would want to fill the shoes of the most hated man in America?