WAKE FOREST — Bill Randall is trying to distance himself from his suggestion that the federal government and BP colluded to intentionally cause the Gulf oil spill, even as he simultaneously stands by what he said.
The Republican congressional candidate called a news conference Thursday after video of his earlier statements went viral on the Internet, reposted by media outlets and left-leaning bloggers across the country.
His opponent in the GOP primary runoff Tuesday, Bernie Reeves, has also sought to make political hay from Randall's conspiracy theory about the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig, comparing him to people who believe the moon landings were faked.
Standing at a lectern outside the doors of a Wake Forest church, Randall began by reading a prepared statement.
"I would like to set the record straight on my position with respect to this disaster," Randall said, reading from the text. "First and foremost, I have not and still do not accuse any person or entity, private or government, of wrongdoing. Speculation is one thing. Accusations are entirely different."
So, a reporter asked, does he want to back away from his statement suggesting the Obama administration and BP spilled oil on purpose?
"I don't want to back away from any call for a thorough investigation into this situation," Randall replied. "I think that we have a responsibility to do that, and anything short of that is not serving the American people."
So does Randall think the federal government intentionally spilled the oil?
"Sir, I don't think you can take anything from my statement that indicates that," Randall said.
On Tuesday, Randall was asked whether he supported President Barack Obama's six-month moratorium on new deep water drilling for a safety review in wake of the disaster, which resulted in 11 deaths and the worst environmental calamity in the nation's history.
"Personally, and this is purely speculative on my part and not based on any fact, but personally I feel there is a possibility that there was some sort of collusion," Randall said. "I don't know how or why, but in that situation, if you have someone from a company proposing to violate the safety process and the government signing off on it, excuse me, maybe they wanted it to leak. But then it got beyond what was anticipated."
Asked Thursday whether he had misspoken or felt his earlier statement had been misconstrued, Randall said: "My statements are a matter of record. If you want to review them and derive whatever conclusion you want to derive, you are free to do that."
Randall then began reading again verbatim from his prepared remarks calling for further investigation and reiterating his opposition to cap-and-trade legislation to reduce carbon emissions.
While Randall's earlier statements garnered ridicule, some people apparently liked what they heard.
Campaign staff members said Thursday that they had seen an uptick in donations since the video hit Web.
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