Barton Forced to Retract Apology to BP

Texas congressman Joe Barton has retracted his apology to BP CEO Tony Hayward and apologized for using the term "shakedown" to describe President Obama's $20 billion escrow fund for oil-spill damages. Barton issued the following statement through his committee office this afternoon:

"I apologize for using the term 'shakedown' with regard to yesterday's actions at the White House in my opening statement this morning, and I retract my apology to BP. As I told my colleagues yesterday and said again this morning, BP should bear the full financial responsibility for the accident on their lease in the Gulf of Mexico. BP should fully compensate those families and businesses that have been hurt by this accident. BP and the federal government need to stop the leak, clean up the damage, and take whatever steps necessary to prevent a similar accident in the future.

"I regret the impact that my statement this morning implied that BP should not pay for the consequences of their decisions and actions in this incident."

After his apology caused an uproar, Barton was forced to retract it or lose his post as top Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

"He was told, apologize, immediately. Or you will lose your position, immediately," a senior House Republican aide said. "Now that he has apologized, we'll see what happens going forward."

Barton first apologized to Hayward during his opening remarks at this morning's hearing. "I apologize. I do not want to live in a country where any time a citizen or a corporation does something that is legitimately wrong is subject to some sort of political pressure that, again, in my words, amounts to some sort of a shakedown," he said.

That sparked scathing responses first from committee Democrat Ed Markey and the White House, then criticism from the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and Vice President Joe Biden, as Democrats pounced on Barton's remark. Rank and file House Republicans, meanwhile, began calling for Barton to step aside as committee chairman.