Gazette, “Gunny” Bob repeated conservative falsehoods about Pelosi's access to military aircraft

Newsradio 850 KOA host “Gunny” Bob Newman and The Gazette of Colorado Springs repeated falsehoods regarding House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's access to military transport -- among them Newman's false claim that Pelosi “has a private fleet” and The Gazette's charge that Pelosi made “prima donnalike demands.”

Newsradio 850 KOA host “Gunny” Bob Newman (during his February 6 broadcast) and The Gazette of Colorado Springs (in a February 8 editorial) made and repeated false and misleading comments about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D-CA) access to military aircraft. Among them were Newman's false claim that Pelosi “has a private fleet ... of luxury military aircraft” and The Gazette's misleading assertion that Pelosi had made “prima donnalike (sic) demands for a military jet of her own.”

Controversy over Pelosi's use of military transport apparently was sparked by a February 1 article (“Speaker pursues military flights”) published in the conservative Washington Times, which on February 7 published a follow-up article (“Pelosi's push for jet remains up in the air”) that The Gazette cited in its editorial:

There were two tell-tale signs that becoming speaker of the House had gone to the head of Newt Gingrich, the history professor-turned-politician who masterminded the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994. The first was when he asked The Smithsonian to lend him the skull of a tyrannosaurus rex, for display in his office. The second was when he threw a major hissy fit after being forced to ride in the back of the president's plane. Neither episode led directly to Gingrich's undoing -- but they were signs of the arrogance and hubris that frequently come before a fall.

We were reminded of this when reading a Washington Times report about new Speaker Nancy Pelosi's prima donnalike demands for a military jet of her own (one large enough to carry a hefty entourage), which smacks of the kind of big-headedness that helped bring down Gingrich and derail his “Republican revolution.”

“The Bush administration has agreed to provide House Speaker Nancy Pelosi with regular access to an Air Force passenger jet, but the two sides are negotiating whether she will get the big aircraft she wants and who she may take as passengers,” the Times reported Wednesday. A source told the paper that Rep. John P. Murtha, a Pelosi chum who chairs the powerful House Appropriations subcommittee on defense, has “telephoned administration officials to urge them to give the speaker what she wants.”

What she wants isn't some pathetic little puddle jumper, but a military transport fit for a queen -- a plane one Republican critic dubbed “Pelosi One” and another called a “flying Lincoln bedroom -- that can fly Pelosi non-stop to California and spares her the indignity of having to slog through airport security or share space with commoners.

We think the speaker, except in the most extraordinary circumstances, should fly commercial, as all speakers did before the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Not only is this a misuse of taxpayer money and military personnel, but, on a symbolic level, it widens the gulf between so-called public servants and the public they are supposed to serve.

Contrary to The Gazette's insinuation, Pelosi's need for a plane that could fly nonstop to and from her district was based on security concerns and on a determination by the U.S. Air Force. As Media Matters for America has noted, citing reporting in the February 5 edition (subscription required) of Roll Call, after September 11, 2001, then-Speaker of the House of Representatives Dennis Hastert (R-IL) received access to military transport as a security measure. Soon after she took office, Pelosi's staff asked the Department of Defense for clarification on rules governing her use of military planes. Roll Call noted that the plane Hastert used “needs to refuel every 2,000 miles and could not make the nonstop haul to California.”

Since the Roll Call article's publication, updated news reporting has indicated that the type of jet used by Hastert in fact could have flown coast-to-coast without refueling, although it would have required ideal weather conditions to do so. Additionally, regarding the use of military planes, The Los Angeles Times reported on February 8 that "[t]he House sergeant at arms originally advised Pelosi that Hastert had used a military plane and recommended that she use one that didn't need to refuel. That prompted her office to request clarification of the rules, [Pelosi spokesman Brendan] Daly said, noting that she never actually requested a specific plane."

According to a February 8 NBC News report, White House spokesman Tony Snow dismissed the controversy as “silly” and “unfair” to Pelosi. The report noted that it was House Sergeant-at-Arms Bill Livingood who had negotiated with the Department of Defense regarding an appropriate plane for Pelosi:

The Air Force transport plane decried by Republicans as an extravagance for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was requested by the House sergeant-at-arms as a matter of security, he said Thursday.

“I regret that an issue that is exclusively considered and decided in a security context has evolved into a political issue,” Bill Livingood said in a news release. He said because Pelosi lives in California he was compelled “to request an aircraft that is capable of making non-stop flights for security purposes, unless such an aircraft is unavailable. This will ensure communications capabilities and also enhance security.”


But Snow on Thursday said the negotiations over Pelosi's transport have been conducted solely by the House sergeant-at-arms and the Pentagon, with no direct involvement by the speaker or her office -- or the White House.

The guidelines provided by the Pentagon say Pelosi could be accompanied by family members, provided they pay the government coach fare. The plane could not be used for travel to political events. Members of Congress could accompany her on the plane if the travel is cleared by the House ethics committee.

While The Gazette and Newman would not have had access to the February 8 reports at the time of their comments, this subsequent reporting made it clear their remarks were false or misleading, even at the time they were made.

Similar to The Gazette, Newman targeted Pelosi's inquiries regarding military transport during his February 6 broadcast. He falsely claimed that she had secured not a single plane but a “private fleet” of “luxury military aircraft.” Additionally, Newman smeared Pelosi with the baseless accusation that “she hates” the military and that terrorists would not want to target her because they consider her “an ally or an asset to their ends.”

From the February 6 broadcast of Newsradio 850 KOA's The Gunny Bob Show:

NEWMAN: You know, one of the -- one of the things that Nancy Pelosi has been up to -- and she's now been successful -- she has a private fleet now. This fleet has been approved, of luxury military aircraft. Approved. For her, her staff, her family, her friends, her constituents, her donors, and her Democratic Party pals. Yeah, luxury jets for VIPs. Pelosi now has them at her beck and call. Not just for her -- but when she wants to go to San Francisco, those jets are waiting. To take her -- complete with bar, and gourmet food, and all that stuff -- wherever she wants to go. Not just overseas on official business. Just jettin' around the country. They'll be served -- all of her friends, and family, and staffers -- they'll be served by the military she hates, acting as stewards on these jets who will bring her gourmet meals, fly her anywhere she wants to go, serve her at the open bar. Is that ethical? Is she really likely to be attacked? She says she has to have these jets for security reasons. She says security is her reason for demanding the fleet. I gotta ask you, gang: Should elected officials, other than the top two, have such perks?


CALLER: Well, you got my -- the fur on the back of my neck is standin' up so high it's not even funny when I -- when you mention that Peloski is able to use Air Force personnel, Air Force jets --


CALLER: -- for her leisure. Now, let me ask you this question --

NEWMAN: Um-hum?

CALLER: -- has any of the other speakers of the House been able to do that?

NEWMAN: Oh, yes.

CALLER: Additional security and all that.

NEWMAN: Yes. As a matter of fact, Dennis Hastert. Because you gotta remember that the speaker of the House is number three in the -- in the chain.

CALLER: Absolutely, you're right.

NEWMAN: I mean, you got President Bush first, then the vice president, and then the speaker of the House. Dennis Hastert had it -- you know, especially, you know, shortly -- not that long after 9-11, for obvious reasons.

CALLER: Um-hum.

NEWMAN: But when you look at Nancy Pelosi, here's my problem with it. Is --

CALLER: (inaudible)

NEWMAN: Is she -- I don't care about that. Is she really -- is she really a primary target of terrorists? No, because she votes in ways that terrorists want her to vote. The terrorists want America out of -- out of Iraq so that they -- so they can take over and have another massive terrorist state there. So she -- they see her as being an ally or an asset to their ends.