After Week of Silence: Network Morning Shows Finally Cover Pelosi Plane-gate

After more than a week of ignoring the controversy over House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s request for access to an extravagant plane, the three network morning shows finally covered the subject on Thursday, albeit briefly. CBS and ABC both offered full reports during the 7AM hour of the February 8 shows, while only CBS included a quote from a Republican lawmaker who criticized the possible ethical issues raised by having the opportunity to fly friends home in a posh C-32 jet. NBC’s "Today" show mentioned the story only in a news brief and then co-host Matt Lauer briefly asked correspondent David Gregory about the plane controversy.

All three networks included snarky reports on this "hot controversy." Lauer wondered if the incident would make Pelosi "look bad from a PR standpoint," while Cuomo used the pithy term, "turbulence." One wonders why it took a week for the media to jump on such a "hot controversy." At 7:06am, "Good Morning America’s" Cuomo introduced Jake Tapper with a few quips about "plane envy:"

Chris Cuomo: "We begin with the turbulence over Speaker Nancy Pelosi request for a new plane. A request that has been quickly turned down. Senior national correspondent Jake Tapper has the latest on the controversy from Capitol Hill. Jake, is this about security or ego? Sounds like a case of jet envy."

Jake Tapper: "Well, Chris, I guess it depends upon who you ask. Ever since 9/11, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, which is second in line to the Presidency behind only the Vice President, has been afforded use of the military jet to travel for security reasons. But Speaker Pelosi wanted use of a plane that could get her all the way to her California district without having to stop and refuel, perhaps even a large luxury plane. And just a few hours ago, the Pentagon rejected her request. Former Speaker Dennis Hastert used a 12-passenger C-20 plane to fly him to and from his Illinois district."

Both ABC and CBS defensively mentioned the fact that Pelosi is second in line to the presidency. CBS, however included a quote from Republican Minority Whip Roy Blunt in a segment airing at 7:10am:

Susan Roberts: "House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's request for a larger military jet is proving to be a political firestorm. At issue, why she wants a larger and more expensive plane. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is second in line of succession to the presidency, and for security reasons she has access to a military jet for travel. But she doesn't want just any jet. She wants something like this -- a government version of the Boeing 757 that can make the trip between Washington and her San Francisco home without stopping to refuel. Gas alone costs $2,500 an hour. That's $12,000 one way just for fuel. The previous House Speaker, Dennis Hastert, used a smaller commuter size jet. The new Speaker's critics have dubbed her request 'Pelosi 1.' Military officials are said to be grumbling about it, and the Speaker is on the defensive. Wednesday she insisted size doesn't really matter."

Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House: "It's not a question of size, it's a question of distance. Well, we want an aircraft that can reach California."

Susan Roberts: But an aircraft like that can comfortably seat 50 and Republican leader Roy Blunt is among those questioning how all those extra seats might get filled."

Roy Blunt, House Minority Whip: "You know, if you can say to your supporters, do you want to fly with me from San Francisco this week, spend the week in New York and then fly with me back? That's an incredible perk. It's an incredible fund-raising tool."

After a quick anchor read, NBC’s Matt Lauer and David Gregory briefly discussed the subject at 7:15am, focusing on how Pelosi would be effected from a PR stand point:

Matt Lauer: "Hey David before I let you go let's talk about the, the size of the plane that Nancy Pelosi has requested from the Pentagon. Depending on the spin you want to believe here. Either, either the Speaker says it's to travel efficiently back and forth to her home district. The Republicans are saying it's an abuse of power. Either way does it just look bad from a PR standpoint?"

David Gregory: "Well I think that's a problem. This is a Democratic leader who's promising to clean up Washington. It's worth remembering post-9/11 the House Speaker gets private air travel by the Air Force to go back to his or her home district. Dennis Hastert went back to Chicago, Nancy Pelosi is going back to San Francisco. She wants the ability to be able to go direct and not have to refuel along the way and have some family members travel with her. None of that is, is untoward but the, the Air Force is saying, the military is saying, 'Look we can't guarantee you a 757,' which is essentially what she wants, 'it depends on availability.' Republicans are saying, 'Look, bottom-line here, that this is more than just efficiency, this is extravagance.'

Lauer: "Right and, and if you were a PR firm, you know, kind of giving guidance to the Speaker you'd probably say take the refueling stop and smile, right?"

Gregory: "Right, right and that's something she's gonna have to grapple with, I think, in the days to come."

Lauer: "Alright David Gregory at the White House for us this morning. David, thanks very much."

The MRC's Tim Graham discussed this subject on the Febuary 7 edition of "Hannity and Colmes"

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