In his February 11 syndicated column, Scripps Howard News Service columnist Dale McFeatters claimed that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) “is demanding -- and, given her style, 'demand' is the correct verb -- that the Pentagon supply her with an airliner-size jet, the military version of a Boeing 757, to fly her to and from her San Francisco district.” Referring to this purported request, McFeatters wrote: “Pelosi has picked a fight that can only embarrass her and gladden the hearts of House Republicans.” But as Media Matters for America and others have noted, the charge that Pelosi requested -- or demanded -- a specific plane, as GOP lawmakers have claimed, is baseless. To the contrary, House Sergeant at Arms Bill Livingood explained that it was he who requested Pelosi have access to military aircraft capable of flying nonstop between Washington, D.C., and California. Further, the Los Angeles Times reported on February 8 that Pelosi's press secretary, Brendan Daly, has denied that the speaker “requested a specific plane,” and on the February 8 edition of MSNBC News Live, NBC News congressional correspondent Mike Viqueira reported that “there's really no evidence that Pelosi specifically asked for ... this 757.”
From McFeatters' February 11 column:
But now Pelosi has picked a fight that can only embarrass her and gladden the hearts of House Republicans.
She is demanding -- and, given her style, “demand” is the correct verb -- that the Pentagon supply her with an airliner-size jet, the military version of a Boeing 757, to fly her to and from her San Francisco district. Gleeful Republican critics are calling it “Pelosi One.”
For security reasons, the Pentagon provides the speaker, the third in line to the presidency, secure transportation to and from the home district. It did so for the former speaker, Republican Dennis Hastert.
But the Pentagon, as with Hastert, is offering commuter jets with space for no more than 10 passengers. Republicans charge that Pelosi wants the larger aircraft so she can load it up with family members and political donors, but the speaker's office says it's a matter of security because a smaller jet has to stop to refuel en route.
While McFeatters noted the statement by Pelosi's office that the determining factor in selecting a plane is the distance it can fly nonstop (rather than its size or extravagance), his assertion that Pelosi “demand[ed]” a 757 ignored entirely Livingood's February 8 statement on the matter:
As the Sergeant at Arms, I have the responsibility to ensure the security of the members of the House of Representatives, to include the Speaker of the House. The Speaker requires additional precautions due to her responsibilities as the leader of the House and her Constitutional position as second in the line of succession to the presidency.
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. The fact that Speaker Pelosi lives in California compelled me 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. I made the recommendation to use military aircraft based upon the need to provide necessary levels of security for ranking national leaders, such as the Speaker. I regret that an issue that is exclusively considered and decided in a security context has evolved into a political issue.