BP announced that they will settle with the federal government for $4.5 billion and plead guilty to 12 felony counts related to the massive 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. At the time, the company received a vigorous defense from Fox News and others in the conservative media, which accused President Obama of "demonizing" the company for its role in the environmental disaster which killed 11 workers and caused billions of dollars in damage.
CBS News reported November 15:
Oil giant BP said Thursday it has agreed to pay the largest criminal penalty in U.S. history for the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
The company announced that it will pay $4.5 billion to settle with the federal government. The largest previous corporate criminal penalty assessed by the Department of Justice was the $1.2 billion fine imposed on drug maker Pfizer in 2009.
Meanwhile, a source close to the case confirmed to CBS News Thursday that two BP employees face manslaughter charges over the death of 11 people in the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that triggered the massive spill.
The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the record about the deal, also confirmed that BP will plead guilty to obstruction for lying to Congress for its statements on the size of the leak.
At the time, right-wing media figures attacked congressional hearings on the spill as, in the words of Rush Limbaugh, "a show trial" similar to "what happened in Stalinist Russia." Fox's Charles Krauthammer compared the congressional hearings to "Incan ritual slaughter," while Glenn Beck called them "Salem witch trials." Bill Kristol said that BP was being "persecuted by a demagogic congressional committee chairman."
Soon after the oil rig explosion, media outlets began drawing a link between BP management failures and corner-cutting on the Deepwater Horizon and the accident -- links subsequently confirmed in a September 2011 report from federal investigators, which found that "BP was solely to blame for 21 of 35 contributing causes to the Macondo well blowout, and shared blame for 8 more."
As oil continued to gush from the ruins of the oil platform, however, several Fox figures criticized not BP, but Obama's administration for trying to hold the company responsible. Stuart Varney, Monica Crowley, Sarah Palin, and Fred Barnes all accused Obama of "demonizing BP," while Krauthammer said that Attorney General Eric Holder's announcement of the criminal investigation into the oil spill amounted to "declaring war on the oil company," which he termed "distasteful."
Fox made every effort to avoid pinning responsibility for the accident on BP. In the early days of the leak, Fox invented conspiracy theories, with Dana Perino suggesting that there might have been "sabotage" involved and Eric Bolling suggesting that the administration might have deliberately allowed the oil rig to leak so Obama "could renege on his promise to allow some offshore drilling." Later on, the network and others in the conservative media turned to false claims that environmentalists were to blame for the disaster, pretending that oil companies were only drilling in deep water because regulations prevented them from doing so closer to shore.