U.S. politicians on Sunday blasted BP chief Tony Hayward for attending a yacht race, complaining bitterly of the energy giant's foot-dragging response to the two-month-old Gulf oil spill.
The latest round of recriminations came after a week of White House arm-twisting that prodded BP to agree to a $20 billion fund to pay claims and a stepped up oil recovery effort in the Gulf.
But media reports of Hayward attending a yacht race off the Isle of Wight, the day after he was removed from management of the oil leak disaster, set off one of the sharpest expressions yet of administration anger with Hayward and BP.
"Well, to quote Tony Hayward, he's got his life back, as he would say," White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said, referencing the BP boss's now-notorious slip.
"And I think we can all conclude that Tony Hayward is not going to have a second career in PR consulting," he told ABC's "This Week" in excerpts of an interview to be broadcast Sunday.
"This has just been part of a long line of PR gaffes and mistakes."
Emanuel then assailed BP for its response to the worst oil spill in U.S. history, saying it had to be forced to do more, faster at every step since the April 20 explosion that ripped through its deepwater rig in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 workers.
"A lot of things that they had to be pushed to do, and pushed to do faster," said Emanuel in an interview with ABC television's "This Week" show.
The latest was a $20 billion compensation fund announced last week under U.S. pressure following complaints by fishermen and small businesses of BP foot-dragging in paying claims.
Ken Feinberg, named to run fund, said President Barack Obama told him: "Get these claims paid. Get them paid quickly."
Over the past week, the British energy giant has called in more ships and equipment from other locations, announced that it was ahead of schedule in drilling the relief wells, and said it would significantly boost the capture of oil leaking from its busted well.
And BP raced to defend Hayward's vacation outing with his son in Britain with a spokesman calling it his "first non-working day since this started."
"Still, no matter where he is, he is always in touch with what is happening within BP," another company spokesman John Curry told AFP.
Asked about Hayward's yacht outing, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell told Fox News Sunday: "All of these guys could use a better PR adviser, but the point is we need to get the oil leak stopped and keep as much as the oil off the shore as we can.
"Clearly, not enough is being done. All the local officials on the Gulf are frustrated as they can be."
Earlier this week, lawmakers skewered Hayward for failing to answer questions about the origins of the massive oil gusher that has spoiled once-pristine beaches and shorelines, killed wildlife and put a big dent in the Gulf Coast's multi-billion-dollar fishing industry.
Environmental campaigners in Britain sharply criticized Hayward's decision to attend the race.
Greenpeace's Charlie Kronick said his actions were "insulting" and the equivalent of "rubbing salt into the wounds" of those affected by the worst environmental disaster in US history.
Republican Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama, one of the four Gulf Coast states sullied by brownish tides of oily mixture thick as cake batter, called Hayward's yacht outing "the height of arrogance."
"I can tell you, that yacht ought to be here skimming and cleaning up a lot of the oil," Shelby told Fox News Sunday.
The controversy capped a nightmare week for BP, whose public image is in tatters after its shares slumped on the stock market, its credit worthiness was slashed and its top executives were hauled to the White House.
Earlier, the company said its main vessel capturing oil from the leak restarted after a 10-hour shutdown due to a blocked vent and lightning storm concerns.
The Discoverer Enterprise, a ship siphoning 15,000 to 18,000 barrels of oil per day directly from the containment cap atop the ruptured well, shut down late Friday due to a blocked flame arrester, a device intended to stop the crude from combusting, said spokesman Wine.
The joint information center for the disaster said BP is improving its recovery from the well and "continues to capture some oil and burn gas at the surface using its containment dome technique."