CNN did not challenge unsubstantiated GOP claim that Pelosi specifically requested "one of the most luxurious planes"

››› ››› JOSH KALVEN

During a report on the February 7 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, contributor Carol Costello repeated recent Republican allegations that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has specifically requested a large and lavish military jet to fly between her home in San Francisco and Washington, D.C. Costello reported Republicans' charges that Pelosi "desires a luxury taxpayer-funded Pelosi One to ferry her family and friends" and "want[s] not only a military plane that could fly coast to coast without refueling, but one of the most luxurious planes in the Air Force's fleet." Earlier, host Wolf Blitzer had introduced the report by noting that GOP critics "accuse her of first-class ambitions." Costello reported that the information about Pelosi's supposed request "came from the conservative Washington Times through unnamed congressional sources." But neither Costello nor Blitzer provided independent evidence of Pelosi's request. By contrast, several other media reports on the controversy have stated that there is no evidence Pelosi ever asked for a specific plane and noted that her staff has explicitly denied she ever made such a request. Indeed, Pelosi herself has repeatedly explained she merely wants an aircraft that can travel nonstop to California.

The CNN report repeated the ongoing GOP allegations that Pelosi requested access to "not only a military plane that could fly coast to coast without refueling, but one of the most luxurious planes in the Air Force's fleet -- the C-40 -- which boasts a private bed, an entertainment center, and a crew of 16." (Costello appears to have been referring to the C-32, a military version of the Boeing 757, which Republicans have specifically claimed Pelosi requested. According to the Air Force, the C-32 usually requires a crew of 16, while the C-40 usually requires 10 crew members.)

CNN went on to air a clip of Rep. Adam Putnam (R-FL) asking, "So, why does she need 42 seats? Why do we need an airplane that costs $22,000 an hour to operate?"

During the report, CNN also aired two brief clips from Pelosi's February 7 remarks to reporters, in which she defended herself against the Republican charges:

PELOSI: It has nothing to do with family and friends and everything to do about security.

[...]

PELOSI: The only misrepresentations could be coming from the administration, and one would only have to wonder why.

But absent from Costello's report was Pelosi's insistence during the same news conference that she does not care about the size of the plane, only about whether it can travel from Washington, D.C., to San Francisco without stopping to refuel. From a February 8 Associated Press article:

[Former House Speaker J. Dennis] Hastert, an Illinois Republican, flew in a small commuter-sized jet. Pelosi and her aides say that because her congressional district is in California, her security would require a larger plane that can fly coast to coast without refueling.

"It's not a question of size, it's a question of distance," Pelosi said Wednesday. "We want an aircraft that can reach California."

Similarly, the Los Angeles Times reported on February 8 that Pelosi's press secretary, Brendan Daly, has denied that the speaker "requested a specific plane":

The House sergeant at arms originally advised Pelosi that Hastert had used a military plane and recommended that she use one that didn't need to refuel. That prompted her office to request clarification of the rules, Daly said, noting that she never actually requested a specific plane.

And on the February 8 edition of MSNBC's The Most, NBC News congressional correspondent Mike Viqueira reported that "no one here can confirm that she's actually asking for a 757." In a report later in the day, Viqueira stated: "[T]here's really no evidence that Pelosi specifically asked for ... this 757."

From the February 7 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:

BLITZER: The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, coming under fire from Republican critics who accuse her of first-class ambitions when it comes to using U.S. military planes.

Let's check back with CNN's Carol Costello. She's been investigating -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Wolf, ever since 9-11, the House speaker has been authorized to fly on military aircraft for security reasons. Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert used military planes to fly to and from his home state of Illinois. Speaker Pelosi needs to fly to and from California. It's the "how" that's sparked an ugly partisan battle.

[begin video clip]

COSTELLO: The charges against Nancy Pelosi are strong -- an abuser of power who desires a luxury taxpayer-funded Pelosi One to ferry her family and friends. They are so loud, the speaker spoke out.

PELOSI: It has nothing to do with family and friends and everything to do about security.

COSTELLO: But her words did not quiet Republican Congressman Adam Putnam, who's accused Pelosi of wanting not only a military plane that could fly coast to coast without refueling, but one of the most luxurious planes in the Air Force's fleet -- the C-40 -- which boasts a private bed, an entertainment center, and a crew of 16.

PUTNAM: There are corporate-sized aircraft that exist that can serve this same function. So, why does she need 42 seats? Why do we need an airplane that costs $22,000 an hour to operate?

COSTELLO: That bit of info came from the conservative Washington Times through unnamed congressional sources. Critics wondered why Pelosi couldn't use the planes her predecessor, Republican Dennis Hastert, had used -- the smaller C-37A or C-20. Both planes are capable of flying coast to coast without refueling under optimal conditions. Pelosi says the debate has been mischaracterized.

PELOSI: The only misrepresentations could be coming from the administration, and one would only have to wonder why.

COSTELLO: But her ally in Congress, [Rep.] John Murtha [D-PA], says he does know, telling us off camera the Pentagon is leaking information to The Washington Times, saying, "They're making a mistake when they leak it because she decides on the allocations for the Department of Defense."

[end video clip]

COSTELLO: So, there's probably more battle to come. We did wonder how Mr. Hastert used military aircraft. Former members of his staff tell us he used the planes only during the legislative session to fly home and back about 80 times a year -- Wolf.

BLITZER: So, the story will continue, presumably. We'll watch it. Carol, thank you.

From the February 8 edition of MSNBC's The Most:

VIQUEIRA: The C-32 is the modified 757. That is among the universe -- in the universe of planes that are operated by the military from Andrews Air Force Base, here outside of Washington, that could meet her requirements. As backed up by the House Sergeant in Arms, incidentally, who says that she needs a plane that can fly her from Washington to her home district in San Francisco in one hop without stopping.

The plane that Dennis Hastert used, apparently, a modified Gulf Stream 3, could not do that -- would have had to stop. So, she's not necessarily asking for this modified 757 -- this C-32 -- that happens to be among the planes that would fit the bill. There are others, like the Gulf Stream 5, which is operated by the Air Force, that could get her there nonstop.

And we understand, Rita, that the Pentagon has come back to her last night and said that "[y]es, we will provide you with the same plane that Dennis Hastert has." The question is: Is that a modified plane? Can I get her -- get her there nonstop? Or would she have to stop instead? You heard her just say right then and there, when I talked to her about an hour ago, that if she -- if they can't get her there, it's no big deal, she'll fly commercial.

But Republicans have been jumping all over her for this, alleging that that 757 has a bedroom on it. They call it the Lincoln Bedroom. We just heard from her counterpart, the majority [sic] leader, John Boehner, in the House, who says the request is a bit over the top as he understands it -- no one here can confirm that she's actually asking for a 757 -- and he's concerned about what's reasonable to charge the taxpayers, Rita.

From the 1 p.m. ET hour of the February 8 edition of MSNBC News Live:

VIQUEIRA: We just had a top Republican leader go to the House floor and offer an amendment on a completely unrelated bill that had to do with energy consumption and pollution that said that Nancy Pelosi shouldn't be allowed to fly on this airplane. So, they're jumping all over this, getting some traction, and they're certainly happy about it -- although, again, there's really no evidence that Pelosi specifically asked for the plane that is in question here -- this 757.

Network/Outlet
MSNBC, CNN
Person
Wolf Blitzer, Carol Costello, Mike Viqueira
Show/Publication
MSNBC Live, The Situation Room, The Most
Stories/Interests
Attacks on Progressives, Propaganda/Noise Machine
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