BP announced that they will settle with the federal government for $4.5 billion and plead guilty to 12 felony counts related to the massive 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. At the time, the company received a vigorous defense from Fox News and others in the conservative media, which accused President Obama of “demonizing” the company for its role in the environmental disaster which killed 11 workers and caused billions of dollars in damage.
At the time, right-wing media figures attacked congressional hearings on the spill as, in the words of Rush Limbaugh, “a show trial” similar to “what happened in Stalinist Russia.” Fox’s Charles Krauthammer compared the congressional hearings to “Incan ritual slaughter,” while Glenn Beck called them ”Salem witch trials.” Bill Kristol said that BP was being “persecuted by a demagogic congressional committee chairman.”
Fox figures also repeatedly expressed concern that the congressional hearings might have hurt BP’s stock price.
Soon after the oil rig explosion, media outlets began drawing a link between BP management failures and corner-cutting on the Deepwater Horizon and the accident — links subsequently confirmed in a September 2011 report from federal investigators, which found that ”BP was solely to blame for 21 of 35 contributing causes to the Macondo well blowout, and shared blame for 8 more.”
As oil continued to gush from the ruins of the oil platform, however, several Fox figures criticized not BP, but Obama’s administration for trying to hold the company responsible. Stuart Varney, Monica Crowley, Sarah Palin, and Fred Barnes all accused Obama of “demonizing BP,” while Krauthammer said that Attorney General Eric Holder’s announcement of the criminal investigation into the oil spill amounted to “declaring war on the oil company,” which he termed “distasteful.”