It wasn't just BP CEO Tony Hayward and his barely noticeable smile that ruined the post-meeting press conference held by BP executives outside of the White House this afternoon. Swedish-born BP chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg went ahead and insulted the very people whose lives his company has already made a living hell, because he is a cold, heartless viking.
"[Obama] is frustrated, because he cares about the small people. And we care about the small people. I hear comments sometimes that large oil companies are greedy companies or don't care, but that is not the case in BP. We care about the small people."
Obviously, by referring to the "small people," Svanberg meant to suggest that the struggling fishermen and shrimpers of the Gulf Coast are less important than wealthy Scandinavian board chairmen like himself. They are like mere ants, which he could crush at any moment if he so desires. It's a strange thing for the chairman of BP to say in the midst of this public-relations nightmare, for sure, but it is the only plausible interpretation, according to an msnbc.com poll, in which 50.7 percent of respondents found the comments "offensive." Just as long as you don't consider the context of the phrase, or the context of the person speaking, at all.