Rep. Parker Griffith: Oil Spill not the 'Worst Thing That Ever Happened to America'

>In his opening statement at today's BP hearing in the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, Alabama Republican Parker Griffith downplayed the oil spill:

The greatest environmental disaster in America has been cigarettes ... If we're gonna talk about the environment, let's be sure we don't leave that out ... The environment is an important concept, and we regret the loss of life, but there's much we can do. We'll put this in perspective. This is not going to be the worst thing that ever happened to America.

Griffith's district does not contain any coastline (it's actually furthest from the Gulf of any Alabama district). Contrast his comments with those of coastal Alabama Republican Jo Bonner, whose First Congressional District encompasses Mobile and about half of the state's Gulf shoreline. Bonner issued a grave statement nine days after the rig exploded, and his website has morphed into a resource center for those affected by the spill. Locating a mention of the spill on Griffith's site, however, takes serious digging.

Griffith switched parties at the end of last year, nine months after entering Congress as a freshman Democrat, becoming him the first Republican to represent his district in over a century. He cited the Democratic health care bill, which he strongly opposed, as one of his motivations. After switching parties, he gave up his committee assignments and lost much of his staff, only to get snubbed by his local GOP executive committee, which endorsed both of his opponents during the Republican primary.

He lost the primary two weeks ago and has not filed to run as an independent, meaning that Griffith has a mere seven months left in Congress.

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Nicole Allan is a former senior editor at The Atlantic.

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