Potemkin Village Cleanup Crews For Obama’s Visit To The Gulf ?

Local officials in Louisiana are accusing BP of busing in workers to the Grand Isle, Louisiana for President Obama’s visit there yesterday to make it appear that the clean-up task was larger than it actually is:

BP, the oil company taking flak for its inconsistent response to the massive oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico, bused in 400 extra cleanup workers to Grand Isle during President Obama’s visit today, Jefferson Parish Council Chairman John Young said.

“It appears to have been a PR stunt by BP, not to say we don’t appreciate the extra participation,” Young said. “We certainly need them, but we don’t need them for just one day that happens to coincide with a visit from the president.”

Obama made his second visit today to Louisiana’s oil-stricken coast, stopping in Grand Isle and Port Fourchon.

Young said he saw the workers dressed in red shirts, blue jeans and black shrimp boots mulling across the beaches and in the mess hall during the president’s appearance. They were uniformed in a way “which you don’t normally see workers dressed like that,” Young said.

After Obama’s departure, Young said, the work crews all but vanished.

“This is a total shame that a mockery has been made of this visit by the executives of BP,” Councilman Chris Roberts said.

“What we want to make clear (is) if they’re going to send them, then send them everyday, not just on the day of the president’s visit,” Councilman Tom Capella said.

BP spokesman Mike Abendhoff denied it was done solely for publicity.

“Obviously, it’s unfortunate that that’s what people are thinking,” Abendhoff said. “We’re not sending people for PR stunts.We’re sending people to clean up this oil.”

CNN covered this story last night:

It certainly does look suspicious considering the fact that the workers had apparently never been to Grand Isle before yesterday, and that they all departed after the President, and the press, leaves the area.

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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.


  1. Mithras says:

    Unfortunately, the whole surface cleanup operation is a PR exercise. My brother is one of the captains on a skimmer vessel down there. Before they left, he told me that the experienced cleanup captains talked about how the Coast Guard would keep them working an area that had little oil when they wanted to show that they were “doing something”, and would pull them out of big accumulations of oil when they wanted to claim that things were improved. Sort of like police departments managing crime stats.