CBS's 'Early Show' Skips Follow-up on Air Force One Blunder

CBS's "Early Show" on Wednesday completely skipped any follow-up on the gaffe of having Air Force One fly over New York City on Monday, terrifying residents. Instead, the program highlighted stories on Barack Obama's first 100 days and still found time for a piece on male celebrities and whether or not they are gaining too much weight. ABC's "Good Morning America" and NBC's "Today" both had segments on the developing story and the revelation that the exercise, designed as a photo op for the White House website, cost $328,000. ABC reporter Jake Tapper intoned, "Asked if the President thinks the costs in both money and stress were worth it, the White House said no."

He also explained to viewers that Senator John McCain had written a letter to the Defense Department, charging, that the flight "represents a fundamentally unsound exercise in military judgment and may have constituted an inappropriate use of the Department of Defense resources." Tapper labeled the debacle a "terrifying photo op." "Today" correspondent Lisa Myers covered similar ground and speculated, "And what about the cost to taxpayers during a financial crisis?" She featured a clip from Steve Ellis of the organization Taxpayers for Common Sense. He charged that the "government wasting money on a photo shoot really flies in the face of fiscal responsibility."

The "Early Show" did cover the subject on Tuesday. Co-host Maggie Rodriguez called the situation "outrageous." The program featured a full segment and co-host Harry Smith complained, "Alright, this is just one of those things that defies explanation, that defies logic, that defies common sense." However, offering no follow-up on Wednesday, especially when new information is available, is hardly an example of impressive journalism.

A transcript of the April 29 "Today" segment and the "Good Morning America" segment, follow:

Today

7:31

MEREDITH VIEIRA: But first, fallout from the controversial photo-op fly-by in New York City involving one of the President's planes. NBC's Lisa Myers has the latest. Lisa, good morning.

LISA MYERS: Good morning, Meredith. The President has ordered an investigation into what is now almost universally regarded as a boneheaded decision. A memo obtained by WCBS in New York reveals that the FAA knew the operation could cause public concern but ordered New York police to keep it secret anyway. This was the scene on the streets of Jersey City in lower Manhattan near Ground Zero when a near-empty Air Force One roared by, shadowed by two F-16 fighters making multiple low passes over the area for a photo shoot. Jersey City 911 operators were bombarded.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: That was a stealth fighter and a commercial airplane. It went to New York and came back towards me. I got pictures of it.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: The people have evacuated my building.

911 OPERATOR: The police are aware of it. It's just a test.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Okay, now you're saying it's a test?

MYERS: An embarrassed White House said neither President Obama nor his senior staff signed off on the measure.

BARACK OBAMA: It was a mistake, as was stated. It was something we found out about along with all of you, and it will not happen again.

MYERS: The White House says its military office wanted a new stock photo for the White House website of the President's jet with the Statue of Liberty in the background. Why weren't New Yorkers warned? A spokesperson for the FAA blamed the military, saying it labeled the mission hush-hush. And what about the cost to taxpayers during a financial crisis?

ROBERT GIBBS: I haven't been in the cabin. There's not like a taxi meter so I don't know how much.

MYERS: The White House and the Air Force said the flight started out as training missions, and turned into a photo mission with only Air Force personnel aboard. The Air Force says the overall cost of operating the planes over those hours was more than $328,000.

STEVE ELLIS: (Taxpayers for Common Sense): Americans across the country are pinching every penny worrying about how they can make ends meet and then to see their government wasting money on a photo shoot really flies in the face of fiscal responsibility.

MYERS: But an Air Force spokesman argues there was no net added cost to taxpayers because these planes would have been on training missions even if there were no photo shoot. The White House declined our request to release any of the photos. Meredith?

GMA

7:31

DIANE SAWYER: But we also have some more news at this half hour about that strange decision by the U.S. government to have the photo opportunity over New York City.

SAM CHAMPION: Oh, yeah. Yeah.

ABC GRAPHIC: Mistakes on a Plane: Did FAA Know It Would Cause Panic?

SAWYER: Turns out, we've learned a lot more about what went on behind the scenes. And Jake Tapper has that for us this morning. Jake?

TAPPER: Fearing another 9/11, people in and around Manhattan saw Air Force One flying unusually close to the skyscrapers and called 911.

911 OPERATOR: Hello. This is 911. Do you have an emergency there?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Oh, no!

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: It looks like planes are going- kind of into the building. Everybody's outside going crazy.

911 OPERATOR: What's trying to go in the building?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: They say, like, a plane was trying to go in one of the buildings.

911 OPERATOR: A plane?

TAPPER: President Obama assigned a top White House official to investigate why White House Military Office Director Louis Caldera signed off on the flight to New York, to get a photo of Air Force One alongside the Statue of Liberty.

BARACK OBAMA: It was a mistake, as was stated. It's something we found out about along with all of you. And it will not happen again.

TAPPER: In a letter to Defense Secretary Gates, Senator John McCain demanded answers of his own. Saying the photo-op, quote, "represents a fundamentally unsound exercise in military judgment and may have constituted an inappropriate use of the Department of Defense resources." The Air Force estimated the total cost of this terrifying photo op at more than $328, 000. Asked if the President thinks the costs in both money and stress were worth it, the White House said no. For "Good Morning America," Jake Tapper, ABC News, the White House.

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org