Who Is Tony Hayward?

Scheduled for a 10 a.m. hearing, the BP CEO is about to get roughed up by legislators

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BP Chief Tony Hayward is scheduled to appear before Congress at 10 a.m. Thursday, a day after meeting with President Obama and promising a $20 billion compensation fund for the oil spill in the Gulf. Suggestions for how to punish BP and predictions for how the hearing will go are plentiful. The Washington Post's Steven Pearlstein 's idea that what's needed right now is a show of cooperation on the spill--"The Barack and Tony Show"--raises an interesting question: as we're about to see more of him, what do we know about Tony Hayward?  Who is this man headed in for a tongue-lashing by legislators?

  • 'An Easy Target,' writes Daily Finance's Sam Gustin. "This is the executive who infamously said he would 'like his life back' and predicted that the 'environmental impact of this disaster is likely to have been very, very modest.'" He will try to "strike an empathetic tone," predicts Gustin, "[b]ut no amount of 'I feel your pain' is likely to shield Hayward from lawmakers' wrath."
  • Persistent, Gaffe-Prone, Not Going Anywhere  "Though he's been ubiquitous throughout the spill--often to his and BP's detriment, given his propensity to say the wrong thing--he hasn't yet come in for questioning in Washington, and his meeting Wednesday with President Barack Obama was his first," notes Time's Bryan Walsh. Also, while he tells readers to "expect that much of the hearing will involve Congress members competing to see who can make Hayward squirm more," he adds that "Tony Hayward has shown no inclination to quit, and don't expect a few angry members of Congress to change that now."
  • Been Through Rough Times Before  The Daily Beast makes a point of noting the CEO's rocky rise to the top in their profile of him: "Hayward got his job as the oil giant was still dealing with a criminal investigation into disaster--the 2005 explosion of its Texas City refinery, which killed 15. (His predecessor, Lord Browne--who had long groomed Hayward as a successor--abruptly resigned amid unrelated legal trouble and tabloid sex scandals.)"
  • BP May See Him as a Liability  "BP CEO Tony Hayward has proven to be the kind of spokesman that the company can't let veer too far off-message," decides Frances Martel at Mediaite. Comparing the draft of his congressional statement to the "original BP response ad," she says 'the similarity in language ... seem[s] to indicate that BP doesn't quite trust Hayward with a broader message, or that they have faith that those words will reflect positively on them."
  • Which, Paradoxically, Lowers the Stakes for This One Hearing  Chad Pergram at Fox's The Speaker's Lobby blog points out that most  Congressional hearings boil down to a single moment that remains in the public consciousness. Sometimes this moment is a mistake made by the one testifying. However, he gives one convincing reason why this won't be the case with Hayward: he's already made too many other mistakes.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.