Think Progress: Unsupported Charge Against Washington Times

February 6th, 2007 12:45 AM

Think Progress is claiming that the Washington Times published a false report regarding a request from Speaker Pelosi “demanding permanent access to a large military jet for herself, her staff, other Members and supporters.” While TP attempts to spin things as though they can support that claim, they cannot.

On February 1, the Washington Times published a story titled “Speaker pursues military flights,” which claimed that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) had been “pressing the Bush administration for routine access to military aircraft for domestic flights, such as trips back to her San Francisco district.” Former Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) also used military aircraft to travel to his district. However, the Times reported, Pelosi is “demanding permanent access to a large military jet for herself, her staff, other Members and supporters.”

The story was disseminated widely through right-wing talk radio and blogs, spurring posts like, “First Class Pelosi,” “Air Force Becomes Pelosi Air,” “Nancy Pelosi is Drunk With Power,” “The Imperial Speakership,” “Pelosi: Fly Me Awayyyyy,” “Pelosi wants military airlift,” and “Nancy Pelosi’s Private Military Plane.”

In fact, the central claims of the Washington Times piece are both false.

First, they claim that the request came from the House Sergeant at Arms and not Pelosi. That's a bit of a laugher. There is nothing unusual about such formality. They then go on to state that the request was only due to a need for an airplane which wouldn't require refueling to make the coast to coast flight.

That's fine, and may be part of the rationale. However the catch is at the end of the statement TP uses to support their false claim. It actual prevents them from proving anything and actually looks to be more supportive of the WaTimes than TP.


In December 2006, I advised Speaker Pelosi that the US Air Force had made an airplane available to Speaker Hastert for security and communications purposes following September 11, 2001.

I told Speaker Pelosi that Speaker Hastert used the Air Force plane for travel to and from his district, however, I was uncertain of the rules and guidelines governing use of the plane. I offered to call the U.S. Air Force and Department of Defense to seek clarification of the guidelines.

Subsequently, several members of the Speaker’s staff and members of the Office of the Sergeant at Arms met with representatives from the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the U.S. Air Force liaison office to discuss the rules and guidelines which governed Speaker Hastert’s use of a plane. Several questions were posed to the Air Force and we are awaiting a response.

Based on that last paragraph there is nothing in the statement disproving the claims of the Washington Times. Actually, it may well support them, if it sheds any light at all. The statement says nothing as to the nature of the questions posed by Pelosi, or members of her staff - only that several were posed.

The sources, who include those in Congress and in the administration, said the Democrat is seeking regular military flights not only for herself and her staff, but also for relatives and for other members of the California delegation. A knowledgeable source called the request "carte blanche for an aircraft any time."

"They are pressing the point of her succession and that the [Department of Defense] needs to play ball with the speaker's needs," one source said. The request originally went to the Pentagon, which then asked the White House to weigh in.