CBS' Attkisson chided Pelosi for refusing interviews about bogus jet allegations

››› ››› SIMON MALOY

In a June 21 online chat posted on CBSNews.com's Public Eye weblog, CBS News Capitol Hill correspondent Sharyl Attkisson claimed that "Democrats and their staffers appeared surprised if not offended when they took over leadership and we asked them the type of tough, challenging questions that we'd been asking Republicans when the GOP was in the majority." Attkisson went on to note one such "tough, challenging question": "One example was when we asked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to explain her alleged desire for a bigger, more expensive jet to fly her to and from California at taxpayer expense. I've probably asked Ms. Pelosi for an on-camera interview 40 times in the past couple of months and she has never granted me one, on the jet topic or any other -- even on matters that are positive for her party." In fact, as Media Matters for America has noted, Pelosi has claimed that she did not request the aircraft, and there is reportedly no evidence to indicate that Pelosi ever made such a request. Moreover, one of the congressional Republicans who led the attack on Pelosi's "alleged desire for a bigger, more expensive jet" admitted that he had no evidence to support his allegations.

Indeed, Attkisson herself reported Pelosi's denial that she requested the aircraft, and acknowledged that it may be true. From the February 9 edition of the CBS Morning News:

ATTKISSON: Thursday, Pelosi swung back, suggesting the Pentagon may be leaking misinformation about the whole flak as payback for her criticism of the Iraq war.

PELOSI: I have never asked for any larger plane. I have said I'm happy to ride commercial and if the plane they have doesn't ... go coast to coast, I'm happy to ride commercial and coast to coast that way.

ATTKISSON: Maybe Pelosi didn't ask for a big plane, but her good friend Congressman Jack Murtha, who oversees the Pentagon budget, did fess up to putting a call in to the Defense Department about a plane on Pelosi's behalf. He's not giving details.

As Media Matters noted, The Tampa Tribune reported on February 20 that Rep. Adam Putnam (R-FL) attacked Pelosi for "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." The Tribune reported: "It turns out there's no evidence Pelosi requested any such thing." The article also reported that "Putnam now acknowledges he had no personal knowledge of any Pelosi request" at the time he attacked her. Other media outlets, such as CNN and MSNBC, also reported that no evidence exists that Pelosi requested, as Attkisson put it, "a bigger, more expensive jet." The House sergeant at arms said on February 8 that he had requested for Pelosi "an aircraft that is capable of making non-stop flights for security purposes."

From the June 21 Public Eye entry, posted by co-editor Matthew Felling:

Matthew Felling: You've been the Capitol Hill correspondent for over a year. How has reporting changed since the 2006 elections? What was the before and after like?

Sharyl Attkisson: I think in many ways it's the Democrats, now in the majority, who've had to make the biggest attitude adjustment. They just weren't used to the media appearing to "come after them" or challenge them the way Republicans have been challenged all the years they held the majority. In fact, some Democrats and their staffers appeared surprised if not offended when they took over leadership and we asked them the type of tough, challenging questions that we'd been asking Republicans when the GOP was in the majority. One example was when we asked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to explain her alleged desire for a bigger, more expensive jet to fly her to and from California at taxpayer expense. I've probably asked Ms. Pelosi for an on-camera interview 40 times in the past couple of months and she has never granted me one, on the jet topic or any other -- even on matters that are positive for her party. The fact is, whoever is in the majority has to spend more time than the minority justifying what is or isn't getting done on the hill and will be questioned harder by the public and the press if it appears they aren't following through with promises. They're a bigger target for attack and criticism because they're in essence "running the show." But I just think this caught some Democrats by surprise.

Posted In
Government, Ethics
Network/Outlet
CBS
Person
Sharyl Attkisson
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