Barbour: Oil spill media coverage hurt Mississippi

By Emily Wagster Pettus/The Associated Press

JACKSON — Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour said Wednesday that the state’s biggest problem from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill was economic, not ecological.

“For Mississippi, the news media coverage led to this being an enormous economic disaster,” Barbour told The Associated Press in a phone interview from the Governor’s Mansion in Jackson.

“They showed the worst pictures from Louisiana and it made everybody think, ‘Don’t go to the Gulf Coast because it’s all covered up in oil.’ So far, that’s been the worst problem for us,” said Barbour, a Republican who’s considering a 2012 presidential run.

Wednesday was the one-year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion that started the 85-day oil spill. Eleven workers, including four from Mississippi, were killed in the explosion.

Barbour said Mississippi’s environmental issues from the oil spill have been “manageable.”

“Typically, we cleaned up whatever oil got to Mississippi the day it got there or within 24 hours. And it wasn’t that much because we were able to catch most of it offshore,” Barbour said.

He said the barrier islands, owned by the federal government, stopped some of the oil from reaching Mississippi’s main coastline.

“That’s not to say that there may not be some ecological damage that’s not yet apparent,” he said.

Barbour said Mississippi’s beaches are clean and the seafood is safe. He said he had shrimp Creole for lunch Wednesday, with the prawns caught in the Gulf.

Barbour is home recovering from outpatient back surgery he had Monday. He said he and his wife, Marsha, hosted more than 200 children Wednesday at the Governor’s Mansion for Easter egg hunts.