Hannity, Gingrich falsely suggested that Pelosi made unprecedented use of military plane -- but "practice began with Speaker Hastert"

››› ››› NATHAN TABAK

On his radio and television programs, Sean Hannity falsely suggested that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's use of a military jet for transportation was unprecedented. In fact, following the September 11 terrorist attacks, the House sergeant-at-arms, the Defense Department, and the White House agreed that military planes should be made available to the speaker of the House for national security reasons, and the first speaker to use such a plane was Dennis Hastert (R-IL) in 2001.

On the December 4 broadcasts of his nationally syndicated radio program and his Fox News television program, Sean Hannity falsely suggested that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's use of a military jet for transportation was unprecedented. On the television program, Fox News contributor and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) claimed that Pelosi's use a military jet for transportation was a "misuse of Air Force personnel" and that "there's no practical reason for it." In fact, following the September 11 terrorist attacks, the Defense Department and the White House agreed that military planes should be made available to the speaker of the House for national security reasons, and the first speaker to use such a plane was Dennis Hastert (R-IL) in 2001.

On the December 4 broadcast of his radio program, Hannity said of Pelosi (D-CA): "If we're all tightening our belts because of, you know, the current fiscal situation ... why is it we're not demanding that Princess Pelosi get off her private jet? Now, this all came up back when -- when she became speaker of the House. The Air Force transport plane -- you know what, Republicans said at the time, this is an extravagance. Nancy Pelosi, she requested it, she said: 'Oh no, it was actually the sergeant of arms for national security.' " Indeed, as Media Matters for America has noted, House Sergeant-at-Arms Wilson Livingood said in a February 8, 2007, statement: "In a post 9/11 threat environment, it is reasonable and prudent to provide military aircraft to the Speaker for official travel between Washington and her district. The practice began with Speaker Hastert and I have recommended that it continue with Speaker Pelosi."

During the December 4 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, Hannity asked Gingrich: "If everyone's so angry at corporate jet use and corporations that have perks, why isn't there that same anger at Speaker Pelosi? You didn't have a jet as a speaker, correct?" Gingrich responded: "That's right," and went on to add, "I don't think the speaker of the House should have an Air Force jet. I think it's a misuse of Air Force personnel. I think there's no practical reason for it. The speaker of the House is provided security, as I was and as Speaker Hastert has, and as they have been for much of modern times." Gingrich later said: "But you do not need to have a personal jet to run around. And in fact, I think that's fundamentally wrong because it distances a member of the House of Representatives from the public they serve."

In fact, contrary to Gingrich's opinion that "there's no practical reason for" the speaker of the House to use military planes, according to former White House press secretary Tony Snow, the Defense Department and the White House agreed that military planes should be made available to the speaker of the House for national security reasons. As Media Matters has documented, during a February 7, 2007, White House press briefing, Snow was asked, "Does the President think it's a good idea that Speaker Pelosi have a large government military jet available to her to [fly] back and forth to California?" Snow responded:

MR. SNOW: After September 11th, the Department of Defense -- with the consent of the White House -- agreed that the Speaker of the House should have military transport. And so what is going on is that the Department of Defense is going through its rules and regulations and having conversations with the Speaker about it. So Speaker Hastert had access to military aircraft and Speaker Pelosi will, too.

Also, during a February 8, 2007, press briefing, Snow also stated that the White House's position is that Pelosi "is entitled to military transport" and that "[i]t is important for the Speaker to have this kind of protection and travel":

MR. SNOW: [A]s Speaker of the House, she is entitled to military transport, and that the arrangements, the proper arrangements are being made between the Sergeant of Arms office in the House of Representatives and the U.S. Department of Defense. We think it's appropriate, and so, again, I think this is much ado about not a whole lot. It is important for the Speaker to have this kind of protection and travel. It was certainly appropriate for Speaker Hastert. So we trust that all sides will get this worked out.

From the December 4 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes:

HANNITY: I agree with that wholeheartedly, Mr. Speaker. I want to go back to the issue what I was bringing up earlier. I want you to explain one thing to me. If everyone's so angry at corporate jet use and corporations that have perks, why isn't there that same anger at Speaker Pelosi? You didn't have a jet as a speaker, correct?

GINGRICH: That's right.

HANNITY: You didn't have one. You didn't have one to take --

GINGRICH: No, and I -- look, and I opposed giving one. I don't think the speaker of the House should have an Air Force jet. I think it's a misuse of Air Force personnel. I think there's no practical reason for it. The speaker of the House is provided security, as I was and as Speaker Hastert has, and as --

HANNITY: Yes.

GINGRICH: -- they have been for much of modern times. They should have security. And one of the people on the security detail carries a classified satellite phone that enables you to be in direct touch with the president or the Pentagon --

HANNITY: Absolutely.

GINGRICH: -- or whatever.

HANNITY: That's important.

GINGRICH: But you do not need to have a personal jet to run around. And in fact, I think that's fundamentally wrong because it distances a member of the House of Representatives from the public they serve.

From the December 4 broadcast of ABC Radio Networks' The Sean Hannity Show:

HANNITY: If we're going to be upset about corporate excesses, if we're going to be upset when corporations spend the retirement and corporate execs get to go to jail if they misappropriate retirement funds for former employees -- and this has happened -- then why shouldn't the same standards apply for politicians? If we're all tightening our belts because of, you know, the current fiscal situation -- in large part, I argue, caused by Democrats, the subprime mortgage crisis, their redistribution of wealth policies, their forcing banks to make risky loans -- why is it we're not demanding that Princess Pelosi get off her private jet? Now, this all came up back when -- when she became speaker of the House. The Air Force transport plane -- you know what, Republicans said at the time, this is an extravagance. Nancy Pelosi, she requested it, she said: "Oh no, it was actually the sergeant of arms for national security."

Newt Gingrich -- I called him yesterday. I said: did you ever have a private jet? He said: No, I never did. He never did. He never had a private jet. So, if he -- it wasn't that long ago. He was speaker in the 1990s. I don't see why Nancy Pelosi needs one today. And it's co -- I would like somebody to release how many times has she used the jet, what trips has she taken. So far, her office is not forthcoming with all the different hours that they've had there. You know, so she's pushing for a private jet. Now there's another issue.

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