In a February 20 article, The Tampa Tribune reported that House Republican Conference chairman Adam Putnam (FL), the third-ranking House Republican, "acknowledges he had no personal knowledge" of a purported request by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) for "carte blanche" use of a military jet. In an interview with Fox News, Putnam had accused Pelosi of "an arrogance of extravagance that demands a jumbo jet that costs $22,000 an hour to operate to taxi her and her buddies back and forth to California." As the Tribune noted, "[T]here's no evidence Pelosi requested any such thing."
The question now is whether major media outlets that reported Putnam's baseless allegations -- including CNN, Fox News, ABC, The Washington Times, and the Associated Press -- will report his admission. A February 22 search* of the Nexis database showed that, so far, they have not done so.
The Tribune further reported that "a set of talking points titled 'Air Force 3 -- A symbol of Democrat Excess' remained prominently displayed on the regularly updated Web site of the House conference committee [of which Putnam is chairman] days after the story was discredited. It mentioned Pelosi by name and said she was pursuing 'an unprecedented perk.' " Upon being informed that the talking points were still posted, Putnam told the Tribune "he would make sure what's published on the Web site is accurate." As of February 22, the talking points were still posted on the official website of the House Republican Conference.
As Media Matters has documented here and here, in 2006, major media outlets also failed to challenge Putnam's claim that former House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL) and the Republican leadership forced former Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL) to resign after learning of sexually explicit instant messages sent by Foley to House pages, despite the contradictions in Hastert's own account.
Below are some of the media reports that included Putnam's baseless allegations about Pelosi. From the February 7 edition of Fox News' The Big Story with John Gibson:
JOHN GIBSON (host): The "Big Outrage", Speaker Nancy Pelosi seems to be yanking the levers of her new power. The speaker demanding big-time political perks now that she's second in line to the presidency.
Evidently, jonesing for movie-star treatment, she wants a bigger airplane than her predecessor, Denny Hastert. The corporate jet-style military aircraft she wants is conveniently big enough to haul family and Democrat [sic] associates back and forth to San Francisco, but she insists it is because of post-9-11 security. All the while, I'd remind you, bashing the president for what she calls fear-mongering the war on terror.
Is her private jet request limousine liberal extravagance, or reasonable security for the woman two heartbeats away from the Oval Office?
With me now, Florida Congressman Adam Putnam.
So, Congressman, even the president, according to Nancy Pelosi, is urging that she take extra security precautions, so what would be the problem with her getting this bigger jet so she can make it all the way home to San Francisco?
PUTNAM: This is not about her having secure communications and secure aircraft available to her. It's about an arrogance of extravagance that demands a jumbo jet that cost $22,000 an hour to operate to taxi her and her buddies back and forth to California.
GIBSON: Is it a real jumbo jet?
PUTNAM: Well, CNN and The Washington Times are reporting that it's the equivalent of a 757 military aircraft. It has 42 seats. It's what Secretary [of State Condoleezza] Rice and Secretary [of Defense Robert] Gates use to travel to the Middle East. It's not what we should use -- that you could get for a $299 domestic flight to California. This is what we use for cabinet secretaries to get halfway around the world.
GIBSON: Let me put this Pelosi jet set up on the screen. A legit security concern or liberal hypocrisy? She is always bashing the president about fear-mongering the war on terror. And yet it appears when it's convenient, she is grabbing a pretty good perk because of security concerns.
But on the other hand, Congressman, while we might complain about her, she is in line for the presidency. Isn't she to be protected as much as any cabinet secretary?
PUTNAM: Look, that is not the issue here. The issue here is why isn't the plane that was good enough for the last speaker not good enough for this speaker?
GIBSON: Well, it won't make it all the way back to California without stopping for fuel.
PUTNAM: Well, bless my heart, the rest of America has to get to the airport two hours in advance and get strip-searched to get onto the plane. This airplane takes off whenever she wants it to; it waits on her whenever she needs it to. There is no security threat when they land at a military base to refuel in America's heartland, so why is that such a huge impediment?
GIBSON: Congressman, take a look at this. This is something from Speaker Pelosi today. We'll put it on the screen. Talking about the security concerns. It will come up, and it says, "The issue has nothing to do with family and friends and everything to do with security."
In other words, this has nothing to do with wanting to haul extra people and needing a bigger plane, but just the security of flying coast- to-coast without stopping somewhere for fuel.
PUTNAM: Well, first of all, landing in the heartland of America is not a dangerous act. Secondly, there was a process and a precedent in place for the last speaker that worked. We are not alleging that the speaker of the House should not have an aircraft. I'm saying she shouldn't have a jumbo jet. And if she has to refuel, then so be it.
But there are also smaller jets than what other news outlets are reporting she requested that can get her to California nonstop. So, this idea of a 757 with room for 42, and the request that asks for supporters and other members to be able to fly with her is a problem.
GIBSON: Florida Congressman Adam Putnam. The issue is $110,000 each way for Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi. Congressman, thanks very much.
PUTNAM: Thank you.
From the February 7 edition of CNN's The Situation Room and the February 8 edition of CNN's CNN Newsroom:
CAROL COSTELLO (CNN contributor): 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 [video clip]: 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 [video clip]: 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.
From a February 7 article in The Washington Times:
Meanwhile, Republican Conference Chairman Adam Putnam of Florida said Mrs. Pelosi's request represents "an arrogance of office that just defies common sense" and called it "a major deviation from the previous speaker."
From the February 7 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:
BRIAN WILSON (correspondent): Updating House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's bid to get access to a larger military plane than the one used by a predecessor, Capitol Hill sources tell Fox News that Pentagon officials have told Pelosi's office the military transportation is a post-9-11 security precaution reserved for the speaker and a small complement of senior staff or immediate family.
Pentagon sources say transportation of other lawmakers ought to require ethics or administration committee approval and reimbursement. The speaker this afternoon said her request for a plane capable of making the trip to California nonstop was originated by the House Sergeant at Arms who is responsible for the speaker's security.
Meanwhile, The Washington Times is reporting Republicans are growing more critical of the issue. The Times quotes Florida Congressman Adam Putnam as saying Pelosi's request represents, quote, "an arrogance of office that just defies common sense." Minority Whip Roy Blunt called the plane, quote, "a flying Lincoln bedroom," and North Carolina's Patrick McHenry labeled the speaker's plane '"Pelosi One."
From a February 7 Associated Press article:
Rep. Adam Putnam of Florida, the No. 3 Republican leader, said he supported the tradition of House speakers having access to secure airplanes with secure communications in the post-9/11 era, because of their spot in the presidential line of succession.
But he called Pelosi's desire for a large transport "an extravagance of power that the taxpayers won't swallow."
Some Republicans have argued that Pelosi could use the larger plane to offer trips to top political donors as a reward for their contributions. The guidelines provided by the Pentagon say Pelosi could be accompanied by family members, provided they pay the government coach fare. The plane could not be used for travel to political events.
"It's important we see what the specific request was," Putnam said.
From a February 8 AP article:
Rep. Adam Putnam of Florida, the No. 3 Republican leader, called Pelosi's desire for a large transport plane "an extravagance of power that the taxpayers won't swallow."
"It's important we see what the specific request was," Putnam said.
From a February 8 report on ABCNews.com:
"Just a month into the new Democratic majority, we are talking about the costs of an arrogance of office," said Republican Conference Chairman Adam Putnam of Florida at a briefing for reporters Tuesday. "The same week she is talking about fiscal responsibility, she is requesting a jumbo jet to taxi her back and forth from her district, something that is a major deviation from the previous speaker. Certainly, it is the interest of someone who is in the presidential succession to have access to a secure aircraft, but this is not a routine military charter flight. This is Air Force Three."
Republican leaders have also stated -- with no tangible evidence -- that Pelosi wants to use the plane to reward financial contributors.
"She was offered the same aircraft that the previous speaker had," Putnam said yesterday. "It sat 12 people, and she refused it, didn't think it was big enough for all of her friends and supporters. In fact, she specifically requested that supporters be able to travel."
Said Blunt, "If you can take your supporters in the air on a government plane, that is a pretty big perk to be able to offer, I would think, whether you are the speaker or anybody else."
Putnam said that this was hypocritical, since "this just after we passed a ban on flying on corporate aircraft and a ban on flying with lobbyists, and yet she is requesting that supporters/lobbyists be allowed to fly on a military aircraft that the taxpayers are picking up the tab for," Putnam said. He called for Pelosi to provide public manifests of the itineraries and costs of the flight, which one congressional source said might cost as much as $22,000 an hour to operate, and to provide some way for the public to make sure political contributors weren't receiving free trips at taxpayers' expense.
*Nexis search of News, All for "adam w/2 putnam and pelosi and (plane or jet or air!)"