DEFINE ‘NATURAL’…. How big a problem was Rep. Joe Barton’s (R-Texas) apology to BP’s Tony Hayward today? Big enough for the entire House Republican leadership — Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.), and Conference Chair Mike Pence (R-Ind.) — to issue a joint statement distancing the party from the Texan’s comments.

“The oil spill in the Gulf is this nation’s largest natural disaster and stopping the leak and cleaning up the region is our top priority. Congressman Barton’s statements this morning were wrong. BP itself has acknowledged that responsibility for the economic damages lies with them and has offered an initial pledge of $20 billion dollars for that purpose.”

It takes quite a bit for the Republican leadership to throw one of their own under the bus, which just goes to show how toxic Barton’s apology really was.

But there was something in the leadership’s statement that stood out — the nation’s largest “natural” disaster?

Um, no. Damage from a hurricane is a natural disaster. When there’s an earthquake, it can cause a natural disaster. Volcanoes, flash floods, tornadoes, and tsunamis result in natural disasters.

When an oil company uses machinery to go a mile below sea level, then digs down another mile below that, and then builds a rig that explodes, sending tens of millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf, there’s nothing “natural” about it.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.