BP Chairman: We Care About The Small People

There was a minor tempest brewed up yesterday when Carl-Henric Svanberg, the Chairman of BP spoke outside the White House after the day-long meeting between BP Executives and White House staffers:

“And we care about the small people. I hear comments sometimes that large oil companies are greedy companies or don’t care. But that is not the case in BP. We care about the small people.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, the remark didn’t go over well along the Gulf Coast:

VENICE, La. — The “small people” of the Gulf Coast have a humongous message for oil giant BP: They’re tired of the company’s big-time executives making insensitive comments.

On Wednesday, BP Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg told reporters in Washington: “I hear comments sometimes that large oil companies are greedy companies or don’t care, but that is not the case with BP. We care about the small people.”

Orange Beach, Ala., Mayor Tony Kennon laughed when he heard Svanberg’s remark.

“They can call me small, miniature, they can call me anything they want. Just write the check and send it to us,” he said.

But Justin Taffinder of New Orleans was not amused.

“We’re not small people. We’re human beings. They’re no greater than us. We don’t bow down to them. We don’t pray to them,” Taffinder said.

In all honesty, though, I think it’s fairly clear that what we’re looking at here is someone who’s native language isn’t English mis-speaking unintentionally and, to be fair, BP did issue a clarification late yesterday afternoon:

Asked about the chairman’s remark, BP spokesman Toby Odone told The Associated Press in an e-mail that “it is clear that what he means is that he cares about local businesses and local people. This was a slip in translation.”

It’s a minor issue, of course, and compared to the continuing underwater oil gusher, and scenes like the one that Steven Taylor linked to yesterday popping up all along the Gulf Coast, it hardly matters, but I think we all ought to cut Svanberg some slack on this one.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.