In a report on the use of a military plane to fly the House speaker, CNN's Lou Dobbs falsely claimed that Nancy Pelosi can travel nonstop from Washington to California, where her home district is located, "in the plane that [Dennis] Hastert was using." In fact, according to reports, the jet Hastert used did not have the fuel capacity to make nonstop, cross-country trips.
During a February 5 report on the use of a military aircraft to fly House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), CNN host Lou Dobbs falsely claimed that the military jet former House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL) used for domestic travel has the capacity to fly Pelosi nonstop to her district in California. Roll Call reported (subscription required) on February 5 that the plane Hastert used "needs to refuel every 2,000 miles and could not make the nonstop haul to California." Roll Call then quoted a Pelosi aide as saying, "The Air Force determined that [Pelosi's] safety would be best ensured by using a plane that has the fuel capacity to go coast-to-coast." On February 6, The Washington Post also reported that the plane Hastert "traveled in was too small to make it to California without refueling."
Dobbs made his claim on the February 5 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight, following a misleading report by CNN correspondent Lisa Sylvester on the recent inquiries by Pelosi's staff and the Office of the Sergeant at Arms about the guidelines for the speaker's use of a military aircraft for domestic travel. Though Sylvester quoted from the Roll Call article reporting that the Defense Department would provide Pelosi with a bigger jet so she could fly nonstop to her district, Sylvester reported only that Hastert's jet was "smaller." She did not mention that it could not make cross-country trips without refueling.
Additionally, the CNN report included, and did not correct, a misleading statement by Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC) that Pelosi was "asking for Air Force One-like accommodations" that had "never been afforded to any member of Congress in our nation's history." In fact, as previously noted, Pelosi's staff and the Office of the Sergeant at Arms inquired about the guidelines for the speaker's use of a military aircraft for domestic travel and a Pelosi aide said that the Air Force determined that Pelosi should use a plane with greater fuel capacity for safety reasons, as Roll Call reported. CNN provided no support for McHenry's claim that Pelosi was "asking for Air Force One-like accommodations." Roll Call quoted a Pelosi aide as saying, "All we're asking for is what Hastert had."
From the February 5 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight:
DOBBS: Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, can now fly in style at your expense. Speaker Pelosi has been granted authorization to make use of military aircraft whenever she sees fit.
Lisa Sylvester reports.
[begin video clip]
SYLVESTER: It's clear skies for Nancy Pelosi. The Pentagon is providing the House speaker with an Air Force plane large enough to accommodate her staff, family, supporters, and members of the California delegation when she travels around the country.
Not everyone is happy with the Democrats' jet-setting style, paid for by the U.S. taxpayer.
DAVID KEENE, AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE UNION: It's better than flying first-class on United or American. This gives her the opportunity to use the plane as a conference area, where she can get members of her delegation together and plot strategy or politics or talk about legislation, do whatever she wants.
SYLVESTER: Since 9-11, the House speaker has been authorized to fly on a military aircraft for security reasons. The position ranks right behind the vice president in the line of succession.
But according to reports, Speaker Pelosi has pressed the Pentagon for more than her predecessor Dennis Hastert enjoyed. Pelosi wants routine access to a larger plane. It includes 42 business class seats, a fully-enclosed state room, an entertainment center, a private bed, state-of-the-art communications system, and a crew of 16.
Hastert, who only had to travel to Illinois, used a smaller jet that seats 12 and has five crew members and none of the amenities.
McHENRY: What I disagree with is a special privilege and a special right given to the speaker of the House that has never been afforded to any member of Congress in our nation's history. In essence, asking for Air Force One-like accommodations. But instead of being called Air Force One, we can call it Pelosi One.
SYLVESTER: Pelosi's office did not return our calls, but her spokesperson told the Roll Call newspaper that the speaker wanted a plane that she could fly nonstop, given the busier congressional schedule. And the Air Force determined, quote, "Pelosi's safety would be best ensured by using a plane that has the fuel capacity to go coast-to-coast."
[end video clip]
SYLVESTER: According to reports, Speaker Pelosi requested the use of a military plane to attend a retreat in Williamsburg, Virginia, last week. That's 150 miles or a two-hour drive from Washington, D.C. That request, by all accounts, was denied.
Representative Patrick McHenry says if Pelosi is really concerned about global warming, maybe she should have considered the same mode of transportation that her colleagues took to attend that retreat, a bus -- Lou.
DOBBS: Lisa, let me see if I've got this right. She wants a plane that accommodates 42 people, private stateroom -- and the reason is because she wants to be able to go nonstop from Washington to the West Coast? My goodness, she could have done that in Hastert's -- in the plane that Hastert was using.
SYLVESTER: That's exactly correct, Lou. You've got that. It would be 42 people, and clearly she won't be the only one on this plane. She wants to have members of the congressional delegation. And her critics will say, look, this is a very nice perk that she can share with her colleagues and use as leverage, should she need to.
DOBBS: Well, it's really a fascinating thing: 42. She could take a circus with her, for crying out loud. All right, thank you very much, Lisa Sylvester.