- Wednesday, April 3, 2024

When I covered the White House for over a decade, I got to ride aboard Air Force One a lot, maybe a hundred times or more.

There are a few things you realize when you fly aboard the presidential plane:

• You’re not crashing — no way, no how.

• You’re not getting shot down. (Google “Air Force One defensive systems” sometime.)

• Flying can be comfortable, even at the very back of the plane.

That’s where the press corps rides. There are about a dozen comfy seats, two by two, a TV on the front wall and a little desk at the back. On the desk is usually a menu for the meal to be served that day, a guide for the TV, and a little notepad with a presidential seal on each page, along with the words “Aboard Air Force One.”

On one of my first trips aboard the 747, a veteran reporter picked up the pad shortly after we boarded and said, “Here, put this in your bag.” And I did. And on many flights after that, I’d grab the pad if it was still there at the end of the flight (I even asked a flight attendant if I could have the menu, and she said sure.)

And I’d occasionally keep a cocktail napkin, also emblazoned with Air Force One and the presidential seal. That was going in the garbage anyway.

But these new reporters who cover the White House — oh, boy. They’re stealing everything that’s not nailed down on the president’s plane, according to a new report.

“Everyone, it appears, is pilfering from Air Force One,” Politico reported over the weekend.

“And it’s gotten so bad that last month, NBC correspondent Kelly O’Donnell, the president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, included a terse reminder to colleagues that taking items off the plane was not allowed and reflected poorly on the press corps as a whole, several individuals who saw the off-the-record email confirmed.”

Ms. O’Donnell raised objections among the press corps following an incident that occurred during a trip spanning several days to the West Coast in February. The alert was based on information from the Air Force crew responsible for attending to passengers on the aircraft.

After conducting a post-flight inventory, the crew reported to the White House Travel Office on Feb. 5 that certain items from the press cabin were missing. Brie Moore, who previously held the role of director of press advance, passed the information along to the press office.

Subsequently, one of the press liaisons sent out an email to all members of the press pool who had been present on the trip. According to the sources, the tone of the email was informative and did not cast blame on the recipients.

Politico said reporters have been stealing from Air Force One for a long time.

“For years, scores of journalists — and others — have quietly stuffed everything from engraved whiskey tumblers to wine glasses to pretty much anything with the Air Force One insignia on it into their bag before stepping off the plane,” West Wing Playbook reported.

“On my first flight, the person next to me was like, ’You should take that glass,’” one current White House reporter told Playbook. “They were like: ’Everyone does it.’”

“When we raised the subject with current and former White House correspondents, stories spilled forth. There’s one about the senator in the front of the plane who — as a chatty aide told reporters — was taking everything not bolted down. Several colleagues of one former White House correspondent for a major newspaper described them hosting a dinner party where all the food was served on gold-rimmed Air Force One plates, evidently taken bit by bit over the course of some time. Reporters recalled coming down the back stairs after returning to Joint Base Andrews in the evening with the sounds of clinking glassware or porcelain plates in their backpacks.”

That’s just weird. Here are the very people America trusts to be honest and truthful in their reporting, and are they stealing from the president’s plane?

Maybe that explains everything we need to know about America’s media today.

• Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times. He can be reached at josephcurl@gmail.com and on X @josephcurl.

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