When state Rep. Neil Abramson, D-New Orleans, told WWL-TV last week he didn't see a "whole lot of oil" on the southwestern coastline during a guided tour by the U.S. Coast Guard — and that berms might not be necessary to fight the gushing oil — Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser shot back sharply. "I hope in the future, legislators will refrain from giving their opinion without first-hand information or the whole truth," Nungesser said in a press release. "Maybe Neil Abramson should go to work with Tony Hayward of BP with stupid comments like that."
Nungesser added that Plaquemines Parish has more than 3,000 acres "where marine life as we know it is dead," but Abramson's tour included only whitewashed areas. That was June 7. Two days later, during the regular meeting of the Jefferson Parish Council, interim president Steve Theriot jumped on the bandwagon and suggested that the representative take a more thorough tour next time. "Oil on the beach is one thing," Theriot said. "Oil in our estuaries is another."
By June 11, Abramson had been put through the wringer about his comment, which he says was taken out of context by WWL-TV. He released a transcript of his full statement, which said, "I can tell you, from what we saw today, it didn't look like berms were necessary, because it wasn't a whole lot of oil out there that we saw and they were taking the necessary measures to clean it up. But I believe the situation is a whole lot worse, so we need to get to the bottom of that and what we need to do in response."
Abramson added that he likewise was upset at the way he was portrayed in the TV coverage. He was still explaining himself by week's end. His colleague to the west, Rep. Joe Harrison, R-Napoleonville, says he received calls from his local media outlets wanting a comment on Abramson's statement. "I told them he must have been looking out the wrong window," Harrison says.
"My full comments questioned what we were shown versus the true extent of the damage," Abramson said later. "I have been a vocal advocate for our parishes in their cleanup efforts. ... I look forward to meeting with Mr. Nungesser and to working together on this tragic event which impacts our state." — Jeremy Alford