Washington (CNN) - A Democratic senator blasted oil giant ConocoPhillips for using the term "un-American" to describe his proposal to strip tax subsidies from the five largest oil companies in the U.S. and use the savings to pay down the deficit.
Sen. Robert Menendez, D-New Jersey, said it is "truly outrageous" for ConocoPhillips to use the term in a press release it issued Wednesday and said he expects the company's top executive to apologize when he appears at a Senate hearing Thursday examining the tax proposal.
"For ConocoPhillips to question the patriotism of those public officials who believe they do not deserve billions of dollars in wasteful subsidies is simply beyond the pale and I expect an apology from the CEO tomorrow at tomorrow's hearing, Menendez said at a news conference staged at an Exxon gas station on Capitol Hill to highlight the Democrats' proposal. "It is simply not acceptable."
A press release posted on the company's main web site page is headlined: "ConocoPhillips Highlights Solid Results and Raises Concerns Over Un-American Tax Proposals at Annual Meeting of Shareholders."
The controversial word doesn't appear in the body of the release but the statement does cite the company's concerns about the "challenging political environment facing the energy industry, in particular, the potential impacts of increased regulatory burdens and proposed tax increases."
"These unprecedented proposed taxes, targeted at only five companies, would have serious effects on our company," CEO James Mulva says in the release.
Nancy Turner, a spokesperson for ConocoPhillips, declined to answer a CNN inquiry about why the word was used. Responding by email, she said only that Mulva "will discuss our views on the tax proposals in tomorrow's testimony."