He didn't really mean to say "small people" when referring to victims of the oil spill, you see, what he meant was: "BP understands how deeply this affects the lives of people who live along the Gulf and depend on it for their livelihood."
BP Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg backed away Thursday from remarks he made outside the White House on Wednesday after his executive team met with President Obama and pledged to set up a $20 billion compensation fund. Obama, Svanberg told reporters at the time, "is frustrated because he cares about the small people. And we care about the small people." Svanberg said he knew that some people view large oil companies as uncaring, but at BP, "we care about the small people."
The comments, coming after BP CEO Tony Hayward's line a few weeks ago that he wanted his life back, rubbed some Gulf Coast residents the wrong way. "We're not small people. We're human beings," Justin Taffinder of New Orleans told the
. "They're no greater than us. We don't bow down to them. We don't pray to them.
Svanberg is Swedish, so there may have been a translation issue that resulted in an unintentional slight. In his "what I was trying to say" statement Thursday, he said BP's intentions "will best be conveyed not by any words but by the work we do to put things right for the families and businesses who've been hurt."