Obama Administration Uses New ‘Restore the Gulf’ Web Site to Spin Its ‘Quick’ Response to the Oil Spill

By Penny Starr | July 13, 2010 | 6:23 AM EDT

Retired U.S. Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen briefs reporters at the White House on June 7, 2010. Allen, the National Incident Commander for the Gulf Coast, says the administratin's new RestoreTheGulf.gov Web site "will provide even greater transparency and openness about the BP oil spill, our historic response, the tools available to assist Gulf Coast communities, and plans for the region's long-term recovery and restoration." (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) – The Obama administration has launched a new, informational Web site that puts a positive spin on its handling of the Gulf oil spill.
The restorethegulf.gov Web site, launched last week, describes itself as “a one-stop repository for news, data and operational updates related to the administration-wide efforts to stop the BP oil leak.”
But the Web site also touts the administration’s “quick” response to the disaster, stating that the administration has been on the scene “since the moments after the oil rig explosion” and “from the very beginning.”
“We are committed to providing the American people access to complete and accurate information about our response to the BP oil spill and the resources available to assist those directly impacted,” said retired United States Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen in announcing the new Web site.
“RestoreTheGulf.gov will provide even greater transparency and openness about the BP oil spill, our historic response, the tools available to assist Gulf Coast communities, and plans for the region's long-term recovery and restoration," he added. (Allen, now working in a civilian capacity, continues to serve as President Obama’s National Incident Commander in the Gulf.)
The federal government already had a Web site dedicated to the oil spill, deepwaterhorizonresponse.com, which was funded by BP. Last week’s announcement said the old Web site would be “phased out,” but it did not say who is funding the new Web site.
According to the Deepwater Horizon Response Web site, BP and the federal government are part of a “unified command.” A DHS spokesman told The Associated Press on July 4 that the joint relationship would not change when the oil-spill Web site became a dot-gov address instead of a dot-com address.
Repeated questions about the new Web site, which CNSNews.com directed to the Homeland Security Department, the White House and the Coast Guard, were not answered.
CNSNews.com asked about the cost of the new Web site, who’s funding it, and whether the Web site is a political response to the disaster, given the content that praises the Obama administration’s response to the disaster that killed 11 men and has fouled the waters and beaches in Gulf Coast states.
The “About” portion of the government’s restorethegulf.gov Web site highlights how various federal agencies were “quick” to respond to the BP spill. For example:
-- The Web site says the Department of Homeland Security -- “[s]ince the moments after the oil rig explosion on the night of April 20” – has played a “lead role in federal response efforts,” including the search for survivors and victims of the initial explosion.
-- The Coast Guard is credited with “quickly leading efforts to establish a command center on the Gulf Coast to address the potential environmental impact” of the oil spill and to coordinate with all state and local governments.
Moreover, the Coast Guard “has played a major role from the very beginning, when it responded to the explosion on a search and rescue mission to save lives,” the Web site says.  It also notes that Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen was named point man for “the administration's continued, coordinated response.”  Allen, it says, leveraged “every available resource to respond to the BP oil spill and minimize the associated environmental risks.”
-- The Secretary of the Interior, on “the morning after the explosion,” sent the deputy secretary to the Gulf Coast “to assist with coordination and response” to the spill, and to “provide hourly reports back to the administration.”
-- The Environmental Protection Agency “has provided full support to the U.S. Coast Guard and is monitoring and responding to potential public health and environmental concerns…”
-- The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has “been on the scene of the Deepwater Horizon spill from the start, providing coordinated scientific weather and biological response services to federal, state and local organizations.”
-- The Department of Defense “continues to support the ongoing response effort by lending Naval and Air Force bases to provide vital staging areas for boom deployments and other activities, and providing C-130 aircraft…”
Restorethegulf.gov also states that a joint investigation into the BP oil spill could result in criminal charges: “If the investigation reveals criminal misconduct on the part of any involved parties, then the Coast Guard will determine if the matter should be referred to the Department of Justice for possible prosecution,” says the “Response” section of the Web site.
This is not the first time the Obama administration has used the Internet to post information about its activities along with a positive political spin.
As reported earlier by CNSNews.com, the Health and Human Services Department recently launched another informational Web site, healthcare.gov, to help Americans understand the changes brought about by the new health care law.
While Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius described the taxpayer-funded, $3.5-million Web site as “informational” and “factually correct,” every page includes a banner that reads, “Health care is getting better. So is HealthCare.gov.”
The Web site also promises that the new health care law “will hold insurance companies more accountable and will lower health care costs, guarantee more health care choices, and enhance the quality of health care for all Americans.”
See earlier story:
New $3.5-Million Web Site ‘Healthcare.gov’ Is ‘Informational’ and ‘Factually Correct,’ Says HHS Secretary (2 July 2010)