BP chairman says company cares about ‘small people,’ drawing ire

Wednesday, June 16, 2010
By Paul Martin

AL.com
Wednesday, June 16, 2010

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The BP chairman’s comment that the oil giant cares about “the small people” received an icy reception on Wednesday from residents along the Gulf Coast.

BP Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg told reporters in Washington: “I hear comments sometimes that large oil companies are greedy companies or don’t care, but that is not the case with BP. We care about the small people.”

Justin Taffinder of New Orleans was not amused.

“We’re not small people. We’re human beings. They’re no greater than us. We don’t bow down to them. We don’t pray to them,” Taffinder said.

Svanberg is Swedish, and his comments may have been an unintentional slight. But coastal residents are angry over the oil spill disaster and at BP CEO Tony Hayward’s comments that he “wants his life back.”

Terry Hanners, who is retired from state and federal law enforcement and has a small construction company in Gulf Shores, Ala., said the “small people” remark revealed something about BP’s frame of mind.

“These BP people I’ve met are good folks. I’ve got a good rapport with them,” said Hanners, 74. “But BP does not care about us. They are so far above us. We are the nickel-and-dime folks of this world.”

Asked about the BP chairman’s remark, BP spokesman Toby Odone told The Associated Press in an e-mail that “it is clear that what he means is that he cares about local businesses and local people. This was a slip in translation.”

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