House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) speaking Thursday on why the airplane story has grabbed the headlines:
"And that's why all of this misinformation is a mystery that it has taken on this life. It serves somebody's purpose to do this. But I'm happy to fly commercial. I've probably have made - are you ready for this - I've probably made 1,000 commercial flights between California and Washington, D.C. in the time that I have been in the Congress, That's a lot of mileage plus."
from the Speaker's office...
Transcript of Today's Pelosi Press Availability
Washington, D.C. - Speaker Nancy Pelosi held a press availability this afternoon following her meeting with Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco. Below is the transcript of her remarks:
Q. On the floor a couple minutes ago, Republicans were talking about the plane issue and calling it an unnecessary expense. What has the Pentagon said to you about the planes and what do you feel about you being treated differently than former Speaker Hastert because you are a woman?
Pelosi. Well first of all, let me say that all of this springs from the Sergeant at Arms office, which is in charge of security for Members of Congress and the Speaker of the House. For matters of security, the Sergeant at Arms has said that he wanted the practice to continue, that what was applied to Mr. Hastert, the Speaker of the House since 9/11, to have transportation to and from home to be provided.
I have never asked for any larger plane. I have said that I am happy to ride commercial if the plane they have doesn't go coast to coast. I'm happy to ride commercial coast to coast that way. We've never asked for a larger plane - this is a myth that [the Republicans] are talking about on the floor. They have nothing to say to the American people about the war, the economy, global warming, and the rest. So they have this game they're playing.
The question that you ask though, springs to mind concern: why would the Department of Defense be putting forth any of this information, which is misinformation and mischaracterization of a request by the Sergeant at Arms for security? I know that it is not coming from the President of the United States, because he has really been insistent that I have the security that I need. I myself would rather not have security.
But no, A, we have not asked them for a larger plane; B, this is not my request, this is a request of the Sergeant at Arms; and C, I don't know why they would say that this was necessary for the previous Speaker, but it's not necessary for you - and that's what the Department of Defense seems to be saying, so if you want to take it to place.
I'm not saying that I am being discriminated against because I am a woman, I'm just saying as the first woman Speaker, I have no intention of having less respect for the office I hold than all of the other Speakers that have come before me.
Q. So it sounds like what you're saying is you don't think its right for you to refuel when you are traveling.
Pelosi. No, I'm not saying that at all. I'm saying that I don't have to go on that plane. I can go commercial. The security wants me to go on that plane and they are saying we should be able to have a plane that goes coast to coast. I live in California. Mr. Hastert lives in Illinois. For the same security reasons that were necessary in the first place, they don't want to have to stop, they want to go coast to coast. But its not about a larger plane, we're talking about a small plane that is capable of going coast to coast. So what they're talking about on the floor has nothing to do with reality.
It still raises the question, why would the Department of Defense be not denying this information that has been conveyed? Why are they feeding the flames? Of course I have been a constant critic - for nearly three years I've called for the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld, who still has a desk at the Department of Defense and I guess any chance they have...
Q. Mr. Boehner said the plane offered to you could fly up to 4,000 nautical miles. You have been told that the plane cannot go the distance?
Pelosi. Let's put it this way, I don't think Mr. Boehner nor I know the particulars of any of these airplanes. Let the record be clear: the Sergeant at Arms office, for security reasons asked for the continuation of the policies, a practice that has been in place for Mr. Hastert. That is a presidential request for the Speaker to have this shuttle. And by the way, it's not a plane. A plane makes you think its waiting; it's a ride in a plane that is used for other things in the meantime. So I don't know - we didn't ask for a larger plane, period. Mr. Boehner may have more information from the Department of Defense than I do.
Q. But you're saying that you will take commercial if it doesn't go - do you know if it will go all the way or not? No one seems to really know.
Pelosi. I know that. And that's why all of this misinformation is a mystery that it has taken on this life. It serves somebody's purpose to do this. But I'm happy to fly commercial. I've probably have made - are you ready for this - I've probably made 1,000 commercial flights between California and Washington, D.C. in the time that I have been in the Congress, That's a lot of mileage plus.