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On the February 8 edition of ABC's Nightline, during a report on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) having access to military aircraft, ABC News correspondent David Wright aired a quote by Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), in which Hensarling stated, "According to CNN, the speaker's office has now requested that the military provide her with a luxury jet." In fact, the CNN report that Hensarling touted did not provide any evidence for that assertion other than "the conservative Washington Times through unnamed congressional sources" and was contradicted by other media outlets, as Media Matters for America documented.
On the February 7 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, during a report on the story, CNN contributor Carol Costello repeated the ongoing GOP allegations 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 -- 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 needs 10 crew members.)
By contrast, several other media outlets reporting 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, Wright's report even quoted Pelosi explaining she merely wants an aircraft that can travel nonstop to California. For instance, 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 reiterated that "there's really no evidence that Pelosi specifically asked for ... this 757."
Wright's report on Nightline simply aired Hensarling's statement, which Hensarling made on the House floor on February 8, but Nightline gave no indication that the CNN story to which Hensarling was referring had been contradicted by other reports. From Hensarling's floor statement:
HENSARLING: According to CNN, the speaker's office has now requested that the military provide her with a luxury jet that seats 42 business class seats according to CNN, a fully enclosed stateroom according to CNN, an entertainment center, a private bed, state-of-the-art communications system, and a crew of 16.
Mr. Chairman, if we are going to tell the American people that we are going to be energy independent, you have to lead by example. You have to have a culture that says, yes, we are going to do things to conserve energy.
At the end of the report, Wright asserted -- in his own words -- that "the next time [Pelosi] speaks about global warming," she should be asked about the "environmental impact of her traveling to San Francisco regularly on chartered flights."
As Media Matters has noted, in a February 8 article headlined "Pelosi Air," National Review Online quoted Hensarling claiming that the Pelosi story must be important if it was broadcast on NBC's Today.
From the February 8 edition of ABC's Nightline:
CYNTHIA McFADDEN (co-anchor): In Washington today, a vicious war of words has erupted. But it's not over the war in Iraq or the budget, it's over House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's plane. Now, the speaker says the Pentagon leaked the request for a larger plane because she criticized the war in Iraq. And Republicans say the request is too pricey. So, Pelosi fired back that she hadn't asked for the bigger plane in the first place -- that security had. And all the chatter, she says, is frankly sexist.
ABC's David Wright sees a "Sign of the Times."
[begin video clip]
WRIGHT: Inside the beltway, it's the talk of the town --
HENSARLING: According to CNN, the speaker's office has now requested that the military provide her with a luxury jet.
WRIGHT: Just how much should the taxpayers have to spend to fly the speaker of the House home to her district?
PELOSI: If they can have a plane that goes across the country, then I'll take that plane. If they don't, I will go commercial.
TONY SNOW [White House press secretary]: And I'll just repeat our position, which is, as speaker of the House, she is entitled to military transport.
WRIGHT: President Bush has Air Force One. The vice president has access to a smaller version. The speaker, the president's cabinet, and other top officials, all enjoy access to military planes on request -- subject to availability.
SNOW: And that's as it should be.
WRIGHT: Really? The largesse of the U.S. taxpayers when it comes to transporting public officials is actually the envy of other world leaders -- even in this country -- where there's also an ongoing terror threat.
In 2003, [British] Prime Minister Tony Blair failed to convince parliament he needs his own jet. When he first proposed the idea, people here mocked it as 'Blair Force One."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It isn't a very good public relations attitude.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can't see why he can't pay commercially for a flight like the rest of us.
WRIGHT: In fact, he often does fly commercial, on official and personal trips. Over Christmas, he and his family bought economy-class tickets to Miami -- confident that British Airways would upgrade them.
The Pope flies Alitalia from Rome and always hitches a ride home on the national carrier of the country he's visiting. In December, that was Turkish Airlines.
North Korea's Kim Jong-Il is afraid to fly -- perhaps with good reason. On those rare occasions he travels, he has his own private train. The Prince of Wales recently downsized his travel plans, visiting the States last month to collect an environmental award from [former Vice President] Al Gore. Their royal highnesses flew commercial.
The Prince is first in line for the throne of Great Britain; Pelosi -- second in line for the presidency. What's the environmental impact of her traveling to San Francisco regularly on chartered flights? Perhaps that's a question worth asking the next time she speaks about global warming, as she did today on Capitol Hill.
PELOSI: Global warming will reshape our planet and our society.
WRIGHT: I'm David Wright for Nightline, in London.