Conservatives defend Rep. Barton’s suggestion that Obama administration shook down BP

Chris Moody Chris Moody is a reporter for The Daily Caller.
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Texas Republican Rep. Joe Barton may have prefaced his apology to BP CEO Tony Hayward by saying he was only speaking for himself, but it has become increasingly clear that other prominent conservatives at least partially agree with his statements.

Despite efforts by House Republican leaders to distance themselves from Barton, a number of conservative pundits, bloggers, and even members of Congress have defended his accusation that the White House is guilty of a $20 billion “shakedown” of the oil company.

“Barton should have been apologizing to the American people, not BP, but other than that, he is 100% correct,” wrote blogger Conn Carroll of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. In a post titled “Joe Barton Was Right: There Was a $20 Billion Shakedown in the White House,” Carroll called BP’s decision to establish a $20 billion fund to aid victims of the spill a “shakedown of Godfather-like proportions.”

Erick Erickson, editor of the conservative community blog RedState.com, wrote, “Let’s be honest. The White House meeting with British Petroleum was a shakedown.” Erickson added, however, that the United States does not owe BP an apology.

A number of other influential conservative bloggers posted their own defense of Barton’s Wednesday remarks, including Jim Hoft of Gateway Pundit: “Of course it was a shakedown,” he wrote Thursday. “It’s the Chicago way.”

Hoft embedded the video of Barton apologizing to the BP executives that included the caption,Well said, Congressman.”

Defenders of Barton’s comments did not remain exclusively within the conservative blogosphere. While the Republican House leadership wrote press releases Thursday condemning Barton’s remarks, influential conservative pundits took to the airwaves to defend and extend the “shakedown” meme.

Talk radio host Rush Limbaugh called the situation “outrageous” and “unconstitutional”; Fox News contributor Stuart Varney described the arrangement as “Hugo Chavez-like”; and Newt Gingrich accused the White House of “extorting money from a company.” Meanwhile, MSNBC contributor Pat Buchanan praised Barton’s statement as “courageous,” and conservative radio host Laura Ingraham agreed that Barton “had a legitimate point.”

On his show this week, radio host Mark Levin called Republicans “cowards” for threatening to remove Barton from his seat on the committee and said President Obama was acting “like a dictator.”

Even Republican members of Congress voiced agreement with Barton’s statement. Despite the reports that members of the House Republican leadership had coerced Barton to apologize publicly for his remarks to the BP executives, some Republicans on Capitol Hill agreed that Barton was not wrong to call what occurred between the White House and the oil company a “shakedown.”

“BP’s reported willingness to go along with the White House’s new fund suggests that the Obama administration is hard at work exerting its brand of Chicago-style shakedown politics,” said Georgia Republican Rep. Tom Price in a statement.

Texas Republican Rep. Michael Burgess told CNN that he found the entire arrangement concerning.

“I don’t know if I would be quite as strong as Mr. Barton,” he said. “But I agree with him that it was unseemly to have the attorney general, perhaps holding criminal papers in his hand, asking them to sign on the line.”

As The Daily Caller reported, Texas Republican Senator and Chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee John Cornyn also showed sympathy to Barton’s view.

“I think it’s good that there’s going to be some money there,” Cornyn said. “But I think the part that Representative Barton is expressing some concern about, that I share the concern, is that this has become a political issue for the president and he’s trying to deal with it by showing how tough he’s being against BP.”

Bending to pressure from the public and House leadership, Barton announced that he was sorry if his comments were misunderstood. A spokesman for House Minority Leader John Boehner declined to comment when asked about bloggers, pundits and members of Congress who have defended Barton’s comments.