MSNBC Hosts Compare Gov. Jindal Travel Expenses With Mark Sanford Scandal

During the 3PM ET hour on MSNBC, co-anchor Tamron Hall attacked Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal for travel expenses, going so far as to compare the issue to the scandal involving South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford: "Well, it kind of reminds you of another governor who fought the stimulus and then we found out was using taxpayer dollars to travel. And that Governor was? Sanford."

At the top of the segment, co-anchor David Shuster declared: "In today’s ‘Making Your Case,’ another governor is in hot water for traveling on the taxpayers dime." Hall explained the reason for Jindal being in "hot water": "...claims that the Governor used a taxpayer-funded helicopter to attend Sunday services 14 times at a variety of locations across the state over a five-month period. Total cost, $45,000."

In reality, as the Baton Rouge newspaper The Advocate reported, the Louisiana Governor was invited to speak at those church services and met with public officials: "Even though he travels on Sundays, Jindal said he schedules meetings with local officials when he flies to church services. On July 5, for example, his office reported that the governor met with citizens, attended a meeting with local officials and went to church in Monroe. Jindal was back in Monroe four days later to meet with community leaders as part of his ‘Louisiana Working Tour.’"

During the MSNBC segment, Hall and Shuster got reaction from conservative blogger Liz Mair and liberal blogger Matt Slutsky. Mair pointed out the taxpayer-funded travel of Democrats: "Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s travel, also, because she was very heavily criticized earlier this year for going on a very lavish trip to Italy that cost taxpayers upwards of $1 million." Hall dismissed the argument:

Okay. So let’s start off with Bobby Jindal, though [laughs]. This is the person we’re talking about. I love when you – and I’m all for bringing up comparisons and contrasts, but I’d like to deal with the first one and then certainly we can have you on to talk about every member of Congress on both sides of the aisle, and every other governor that’s been in some trouble, but let me get your answer about Bobby Jindal.

Later, Mair reiterated her point about Democrats’ travel: "But honestly – but you can say the same thing on the Democratic side, I mean, I recall very strongly in 2006 when Democrats were running and looking to retake Congress that there were plenty of pledges made about fiscal responsibility. That’s hypocrisy, too." Shuster replied: "Right, but they weren’t going to church." Mair responded: "What was Nancy Pelosi doing in Italy, there was plenty that she was doing that was of private interest and was not in her official capacity as Speaker of the House of Representatives?" In fact, Pelosi traveled to Rome, where she visited the Vatican.

Shuster concluded the segment: "Yeah no, it is wrong. And for Bobby Jindal, in particular, it’s a political problem when he says we shouldn’t be spending money for things we do not need. Well, his state does not need him going to various churches across the state, so."

Here is a full transcript of the segment:

3:41PM

DAVID SHUSTER: In today’s ‘Making Your Case,’ another governor is in hot water for traveling on the taxpayers dime.

TAMRON HALL: Yeah David, according to a report in the Louisiana newspaper The Advocate, Republican Governor Bobby Jindal has been using a helicopter to go to church. Here are more details for you, the story claims that the Governor used a taxpayer-funded helicopter to attend Sunday services 14 times at a variety of locations across the state over a five-month period. Total cost, $45,000. Well, Jindal says he’s humbled to be invited to speak at these churches, but at least one Republican state senator, Robert Adley, is questioning the Governor’s use of helicopters, saying he’s glad Jindal goes to church, but he ought to be paying for it through his own money. Well, is the Governor justified in using the helicopter? Here to make the case, Matt Slutsky, a blogger and co-host of Doublespeak on on-line radio, and Liz Mair, a conservative blogger who blogs at LizMayor.com. Thank you both for joining us. So Liz, I’ll start off with you. What do you think of this, $45,000 to visit 14 churches? I don’t think anybody would argue about you going to church, but taxpayer dollars, is that inappropriate?

LIZ MAIR: Look, I think it’s important, first of all, to note that Jindal’s office has been pretty clear in saying that he wasn’t just going to church on these trips, he’s also been meeting with local officials. I do think that’s an important point. And we can have a debate about whether spending taxpayer money for travel, in those particular circumstances, is appropriate. One thing that I do think is important, though, if we’re going to have that debate, is that we have that debate about, you know, things like Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s travel, also, because she was very heavily criticized earlier this year for going on a very lavish trip to Italy that cost taxpayers upwards of $1 million.

HALL: Okay. So let’s start off with Bobby Jindal, though [laughs]. This is the person we’re talking about. I love when you – and I’m all for bringing up comparisons and contrasts, but I’d like to deal with the first one and then certainly we can have you on to talk about every member of Congress on both sides of the aisle, and every other governor that’s been in some trouble, but let me get your answer about Bobby Jindal.

MAIR: You’re asking me whether I think that it’s appropriate that money’s being spent this way?

HALL: Yeah, that’s the question.

MAIR: You know, personally – personally, I do think that taxpayers probably fund more in terms of government official travel than they probably should.

HALL: Okay.

MAIR: And I think it’s probably worth taking a look at it, yeah.

SHUSTER: Matt, let’s bring you in. Matt, go ahead.

MATT SLUTSKY: Can I jump in here for a second? Thank you. Listen, but it’s about the hypocrisy here, that’s what this is about. Because Governor Jindal and the Republicans go around saying that Democrats are wasting government money and all of this junk. And yet this is what you get from Governor Jindal. You know, this is a governor that just a few months ago was crusading against the stimulus money for his own state at a time when clearly people need the relief in Louisiana, and then he goes and does this. You know, it’s just absurd. And the fact that he says that he’s meeting with constituents, I mean, I have right here a cell phone, he should probably invest in one, I’m happy to contribute. And he can do meetings over phone, in a very difficult time for his constituents.

MAIR: Well, hang on – hang on, Matthew. Do you-

SHUSTER: Well, wait a second, on the issue – on the point though, wait a second, on the larger point about possible hypocrisy, let’s remind our viewers. Here’s what Bobby Jindal said back in January, when he was publicly – with Republican response condemning the Democrats for the stimulus money that they were running. Here’s the tape of Bobby Jindal’s response. Watch.

BOBBY JINDAL: Who amongst us would ask our children for a loan so we can spend money we do not have on things we do not need? That is precisely what the Democrats in Congress just did. It’s irresponsible. And it’s no way to strengthen our economy, create jobs, or build a prosperous future for our children.

SHUSTER: Now here’s a statement from Bobby Jindal about spending government money on these junkets to go to church, he says, ‘I’m completely just humbled and honored that I’m asked to come and worship with Louisianans across the state. It’s important for the governor to get out of Baton Rouge.’ Liz, it is true that he met with local officials. But the primary reason he went on these trips was to go to church. And again, isn’t it somewhat hypocritical for him to mix church and state, on the one hand, condemn government spending that doesn’t help create any jobs and there he is, going primarily to church and spending government money to get there?

MAIR: I think you often have government officials who mix professional business, and business conducted in their official capacity, with personal interests and things that they are doing in their private lives. I don’t think that that’s terribly uncommon-

SHUSTER: Right. We can all agree that’s wrong, can’t we?

SLUTSKY: That may be the case, David-

MAIR: I certainly think, as I said to you-

HALL: Yeah, Liz said it was wrong, yeah.

MAIR: -as I said to you earlier, I think – yeah-

HALL: Yeah, she said it was wrong.

MAIR: I think we can all agree that it’s probably something that should be curtailed. But I don’t think that this is a problem that is specific to Bobby Jindal, I don’t think it’s a problem specific to Republicans. I think that it’s something that impacts Democrats just as much. And if we’re looking at it on a sheer numbers basis, there’s a big difference between $45,000 and a million dollars. And I think that’s something that’s worth bearing in mind.

HALL: Well, but when you’re looking at a state like Louisiana, though, I mean you’re talking about a Congress – Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, when you’re looking at the hardships of the people in Louisiana, $4500. A lot of money.

SLUTSKY: But we can have a debate about travel. I think this is – this is-

MAIR: I don’t disagree with that.

SLUTSKY: We can have a debate about travel, guys, but this is not what this is about, this is about hypocrisy and this is about a disconnect between what Bobby Jindal and the Republicans are saying that they care about and then they go off and they spend money like this. It’s just wild. I mean-

MAIR: But honestly – but you can say the same thing on the Democratic side, I mean, I recall very strongly in 2006 when Democrats were running and looking to retake Congress-

SHUSTER: But Liz-

SLUTSKY: Liz, we’re not talking about-

MAIR: -that there were plenty of pledges made about fiscal responsibility. That’s hypocrisy, too. That’s hypocrisy, too.

SHUSTER: Right, but they weren’t going to church.

HALL: Right. Well, Matt and Liz we’re out-

SHUSTER: But they weren’t going to church, were they?

HALL: They weren’t going to church.

MAIR: What was Nancy Pelosi doing in Italy, there was plenty that she was doing that was of private interest and was not in her official capacity as Speaker of the House of Representatives?

SLUTSKY: I hope she was having – I hope she was having some fun. But I suggest he goes out and gets one of these [holds up cell phone] and does some conference calls.

MAIR: I’m sure she was, yeah. I’m sure she was.

HALL: Matt, Liz, thank you both very much, we greatly appreciate it. Interesting conversation. David, I said $4,500, $45,000, was the amount, the total cost. But it is an interesting conversation. In Liz’s defense, and I’m not defending her, she did say it was wrong from the very beginning of the conversation. She said it was wrong.

SHUSTER: Yeah no, it is wrong. And for Bobby Jindal, in particular, it’s a political problem when he says we shouldn’t be spending money for things we do not need. Well, his state does not need him going to various churches across the state, so.

HALL: Well, it kind of reminds you of another governor who fought the stimulus and then we found out was using taxpayer dollars to travel. And that Governor was? Sanford. That was a quiz, David. Governor Sanford.

SHUSTER: Who could forget?

HALL: Who could forget? Not us. And we won’t let him.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC