In what one environmentalist described as “yet another public relations disaster” for embattled energy giant BP, CEO Tony Hayward took time off Saturday to attend a glitzy yacht race around England’s Isle of Wight.
As social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook lit up with outrage, BP spokespeople rushed to defend Hayward, who has drawn withering criticism as the public face of BP’s halting efforts to stop the worst oil spill in U.S. history.
Spokeswoman Sheila Williams said Hayward took a break from overseeing BP efforts to stem the undersea gusher in Gulf of Mexico so he could watch his boat “Bob” participate in the J.P. Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race. The 52-foot yacht is made by the Annapolis, Maryland-based boatbuilder Farr Yacht Design.
The annual one-day race is one of the world’s largest, attracting more than 1,700 boats and 16,000 sailors as world-renown yachtsmen compete with wealthy amateurs in the 50-nautical mile course around the island.
TIMELINE: Obama golfs while Gulf burns
April 22: The Deepwater Horizon drilling platform, which had been burning for two days, sinks into the gulf. President Obama, after speaking in New York about the significance of financial regulatory legislation, hosts an Earth Day celebration in the Rose Garden.
April 23: The U.S. Coastguard pronounces 11 Deepwater workers dead after traveling almost 2,000 miles throughout the gulf in search of their bodies. The president and First Lady Michelle Obama travel to North Carolina for a brief 3 day vacation, where they enjoy BBQ.
April 24: Coast Guard Rear Admiral Mary Landry announces that the Deepwater wellhead is spewing crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. The president and first lady continue to enjoy their vacation in North Carolina.
April 26: A remote sub fails to stop the leak. Just four days after the explosion, the spill covers an area the size of Rhode Island. After hosting a ceremony for the New York Yankees, Obama travels to Andrews Air Force Base for a game of golf.
April 28: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) pegs the leak rate at 5,000 barrels a day — up from BP’s claim of 1,000 barrels a day. Obama leaves Iowa and spends the day in Illinois, where he speaks to the owner of a family farm. He then visits a biofuel plant.
April 29: Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal declares a state of emergency, as the spill “now covers a 600-square-mile area” and “is about 16 miles off the state’s coast.” Obama delivers remarks in Washington on the importance of cybersecurity. Later in the day, he attends a FEMA meeting about hurricane preparedness.
May 1: The U.S. military lends BP two C-130 aircraft to release potentially dangerous chemical dispersants over the oil spill. Obama tells jokes at the White House Correspondents Association Dinner, including one about killing the Jonas Brothers using CIA drones.
May 2: Obama makes a quick trip to Louisiana to ”get a firsthand view of the recovery efforts.”
May 3: Alabama Attorney General Troy King demands that BP stop asking fisherman to sign complicated agreements that would severely limit the amount BP would be forced to compensate them for the loss of their livelihood. Obama hosts dinner for the Business Council, “a group of current or former chief executive officers from a broad range of companies.”
May 8: BP’s containment dome, thought by many to be one of the environmentally safest solutions, fills with ice and fails to stop the leak. Obama plays golf at Arkansas’s Fort Belvoir.
May 12: Under pressure from journalists and government agencies, British Petroleum releases a short video of the wellhead, located one mile beneath the gulf surface. Using independent analysts, NPR determines from the video that at 50,000 barrels a day, the leak rate is 10 times higher than NOAA’s estimate and 50 times higher than BP’s early claim. Obama spends the morning with Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai. After lunch, Obama retires to the Oval Office with his advisers.
May 17: While BP attempts to siphon oil into a special tube, scientists warn that the oil is headed for the Gulf Stream, which would carry it around the southern tip of Florida and into the Atlantic Ocean. Obama hosts the University of Connecticut’s women’s basketball team.
May 18: Tar balls wash up on the shores of Key West, Fla. Obama tours a factory in Ohio. Later in the day, he meets with Jewish members of the Democratic Caucuses.
May 21: ABC News reports that in the course of one month, enough oil has spilled to “fill enough gallon milk jugs to stretch more than 11,300 miles. That’s more than the distance from New York to Buenos Aires, Argentina, and back.” Obama signs a presidential memorandum “outlining the next steps in his vision for cleaner, more efficient vehicles.”
May 22: Wildlife officials in Louisiana tell the Associated Press that they are considering setting the state’s fragile marshes on fire in an effort to staunch the contaminating effects of the oil. White House officials announce that they are beginning a multi-year renovation project for the north side of the White House. Obama delivers the commencement address at the Military Academy at West Point.
May 26: BP announced yet another plan for stopping the spill, a maneuver called “Top Kill” that involves pumping mud into the Deepwater wellhead in order to clog it. This same day, officials begin pulling fisherman off the gulf due to toxic oil fumes. Obama hosts the U.S. World Cup soccer team and the Duke men’s basketball team.
May 28: Obama makes only his second visit to a grief-stricken Louisiana before heading on vacation. While on vacation over the next 4 days, Obama played two more rounds of golf.
Between June 2 and June 12 Obama played two more rounds of golf.