ProPublica

Journalism in the Public Interest

BP Says Workers May Speak to the Media, But Video Suggests Otherwise

Last week, I received an email from BP's press office, which "wanted to flag" a letter from BP COO Doug Suttles telling employees and cleanup workers that they are allowed to talk to the media.

"Recent media reports have suggested that individuals involved in the clean up operation have been prohibited from speaking to the media, and this is simply untrue," Suttles wrote in a letter, dated June 9. "BP fully supports and defends all individuals rights [sic] to share their personal thoughts and experiences with journalists if they so choose."

One would think this note from Suttles, entitled "Clarification of Media Access," would do the trick. But the reality on the beaches of the Gulf still seems to be otherwise. In one documented incident, a news anchor from WDSU-TV in New Orleans was repeatedly told by private security guards on a public beach that "Sir, you cannot interview the workers."

This didn't change when the reporter mentioned Doug Suttles' letter, either. The private guards denied the letter existed and said they were following orders. They refused to explain who was giving those orders.

Reporter: Who's briefing you all?
Guard: That's not important right now.
Reporter: Well if you're telling me I can't do it, it's important that I know who's briefing you.
Guard: What's important right now is that you cannot talk to the workers. You're interfering with their jobs right now.
Reporter: If there's somebody on break, I'm interfering with his job?
Guard: Yes, you're interfering with his rest.

Watch the exchange below:

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