Reporters Demand CNN on Air Force One
The White House press corps last night complained about having to watch Fox News on Air Force One.
During a briefing led by White House spokesman Scott McClellan as President Bush was traveling to New Orleans, Louisiana, the Washington Post’s Jim VandeHei asked why the White House televisions always seemed to be tuned to Fox News and if it was possible to have them tuned instead to CNN. “It’s come to my attention that there’s been requests — this is a serious question — to turn these TVs onto a station other than Fox, and that those have been denied,” VandeHei told McClellan, who is soon to be replaced by former Fox anchor and self-described conservative Tony Snow. “My question would be, is there a White House policy that all government TVs have to be tuned to Fox?” VandeHei asked.
“Never heard of any such thing,” McClellan responded. “My TVs are on four different channels at all times.”
VandeHei noted that McClellan has four televisions in his office, and clarified that he was referring to the ones that reporters can see. “They’re always turned to Fox, which a lot of people consider a Republican-leaning network.” VandeHei noted that the televisions are paid for with taxpayer dollars. “And my understanding is that you guys have to watch Fox on Air Force One. Is that true?”
McClellan said it was the first he had heard such a claim, and that it was not true. “In fact, I’ve watched other channels on here,” he said. “I’ve never known anyone that’s raised a complaint about a request from back here to watch a different channel,” McClellan added.
VandeHei replied, “I’m officially raising it, and officially complaining about it.”
McClellan then asked whether VandeHei had tried to have the change made.
“I was told — the quote was, ‘No,’ when I asked for CNN,” the reporter said.
McClellan asked him with whom he had spoken, but VandeHei said he did not know. “Well, the magic people at the other end off the phone … I was told, ‘We don’t watch CNN here, you can only watch Fox,’ ” VandeHei said.
McClellan said he found the question “quite amusing,” and left to see about making the change. Eighteen minutes after VandeHei raised the issue, McClellan had resolved it. “We just called up. They’re going to be changing it, at your all’s request, to the channel that you requested, which is CNN — from the press corps.”
This is rather amusing because one would think the press corps would have more important things to do on Air Force One than watch television, let alone complaining about what channel is on. And, frankly, while the televisions are indeed paid for by the taxpayers, it doesn’t follow that individual taxpayers have a say in the program choices. After all, Air Force One is owned by the taxpayers, too, but reporters don’t get to vote on travel destinations.