Lou Dobbs asserted that the military aircraft used by former Speaker Dennis Hastert would be able to fly current Speaker Nancy Pelosi “coast to coast.” But the day before, CNN host Wolf Blitzer reported that it is possible that Hastert's plane could “fly coast to coast without refueling, but that would also depend on multiple factors, including winds, payloads, and reserve fuel requirements.”
On the February 8 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight, host Lou Dobbs asserted that “despite a lot of journalistic reports to the contrary,” the military aircraft used by former House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL) between Washington, D.C., and his district in Illinois would be able to fly House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) “coast to coast for just about $15,000 less than the proposed aircraft for the speaker.” The “proposed aircraft” is presumably the larger C-32 (as CNN correspondent Kitty Pilgrim suggested earlier in the program) or C-40, which Republicans alleged on the House floor that Pelosi had requested (calling them by the names of their civilian counterparts, the Boeing 757 and 737). However, CNN itself had reported that Hastert's plane could not consistently reach Pelosi's district. On the February 7 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, host Wolf Blitzer said that “each of those planes [including Hastert's] could fly coast to coast without refueling, but that would also depend on multiple factors, including winds, payloads, and reserve fuel requirements.”
Additionally, ABC News senior national correspondent Jake Tapper wrote that “Capt. Herb McConnell, the spokesman for the 89th Airlift wing at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, said the C-20 [Hastert's plane] is sometimes 'able to make a coast-to-coast flight at times during the year, but not when there are strong headwinds such as during the winter.' ” The Los Angeles Times similarly reported that planes like Hastert's “require ideal weather conditions to make the cross-country trip without stopping to refuel.” As Media Matters for America noted, Dobbs asserted on February 5 that Hastert's plane could fly Pelosi to her district, despite contrary reporting in Roll Call. Dobb's claim was also contradicted by a report in the February 6 Washington Post.
Earlier on Lou Dobbs Tonight, Pilgrim reported that Pelosi was “in denial” about the story, telling viewers that Pelosi was “so in denial, she even denied it was a plane.” In the next video clip, Pelosi was shown making the distinction between having a plane specifically reserved at all times and having access to the use of a plane when necessary.
Pilgrim also reported that “the debate on the House floor raised voices and passions,” and then aired three consecutive video clips of Republican congressmen without including an opposing Democratic voice. The only Democrat shown in a video clip during the segment was Pelosi herself, whom Pilgrim dismissed as “in denial.”
As the weblog Think Progress noted, Dobbs discussed Pelosi's airplane on Lou Dobbs Tonight and Lou Dobbs This Week every day from February 1-6. He also discussed it on the February 7 edition of Lou Dobbs Tonight.
From the February 8 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight:
PILGRIM: After weeks of intense accusations, the speaker of the House tried to set the record straight. But Nancy Pelosi was in denial.
PELOSI: We didn't ask for a larger plane, period.
PILGRIM: She was so in denial, she even denied it was a plane.
PELOSI: And by the way, it's not a plane. A plane seems to make you think your plane's waiting there. It's a ride.
PILGRIM: What Mrs. Pelosi's staff admits to is asking the DOD for a plane that could fly nonstop to San Francisco. The DOD letter in response doesn't reveal whether she indeed asked for a C-32, the same plane as Vice President Dick Cheney's Air Force Two, a plane that carries 45 people.
PILGRIM: But the debate on the House floor raised voices and passions.
REP. DAN BURTON (R-IN): And I hope that Speaker Pelosi will take the time to come down and explain to the full House the reason why she thinks she should have $15 million a year to fly back and forth to California.
REP. GINNY BROWN-WAITE (R-FL): Congress should not be above coach or first-class travel.
REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA): The ability to fly on a jumbo jetliner is a privilege never before granted to a member of Congress.
PILGRIM: Now, John Murtha, chairman of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, says that he wants to hold hearings later this spring on executive and congressional travel on military aircraft, and he's given the Defense Department a one-month deadline to provide records on congressional travel for the last two years -- Lou.
DOBBS: Time now for some of your thoughts.
Anita from Louisiana: “Your story about Nancy Pelosi demanding a huge military jet for her personal use was at best inaccurate and slanted, and at worst a smear.”
Well, actually, former House Speaker Congressman Dennis Hastert of Illinois flew to and fro Washington, most commonly on a Gulfstream 3 jet. There it is. And despite a lot of journalistic reports to the contrary, that aircraft will fly coast to coast for just about $15,000 less than the proposed aircraft for the speaker.