Fact Check: NO Evidence Speaker Pelosi Uses Air Force Jets For Flights Home

Fact Check

  • by: Olivera Perkins
Fact Check: NO Evidence Speaker Pelosi Uses Air Force Jets For Flights Home Commercial Air

Does Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi use an Air Force jet every Friday to fly "home from Washington D.C. to San Francisco, and then back to DC on Mondays"? No, there's no evidence that's true: When Pelosi began her current tenure as speaker in 2019, her deputy chief of staff said the California Democrat intended to use commerical flights for routine travel, such as round-trip flights between Washington, D.C. and her San Francisco-area district, according to a January 5, 2019 Politico.com article. A Lead Stories search found no evidence she has reversed that policy.

The claim was made in a Facebook post (archived here) published March 22, 2020. It states:

See this plane. It's not Air Force One. This is QUEEN NANCY PELOSI'S JET!
Queen Pelosi wasn't happy with the small USAFC-20B jet, Gulf Stream III that comes with the Speaker's job. OH NO! Queen Pelosi was aggravated that this little jet had to stop to refuel, so she ordered a 200-seat, USAF C-32, Boeing 757 jet that could get her back to California without stopping. Every Friday she flies home from Washington D.C. to San Francisco, and then back to DC on Mondays.
The cost in gas alone to fly her back and forth comes to $5.7 million a year, and this doesn't include the cost of the crew, and yet she wants to tax and steal more from our IRA's and 401K's. 😡

This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:

Facebook screenshot

(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Fri Mar 26 16:31:23 2021 UTC)

As speaker, Pelosi has the option of using Air Force jets for such travel because she is second in line to the presidency after the vice president, the article says.

Lead Stories contacted both Pelosi's office and the Air Force to see if the speaker has since decided to use Air Force jets for travel between Washington, D.C. and her district.Neither has responded. When they do, we will update this fact check. In the meantime, Lead Stories did an internet search to see if Pelosi had reversed her travel policy regarding such flights. We can find no indication that she has. During her first tenure as speaker, from January 2007 to January 2011, Pelosi used military aircraft for such travel, which was widely reported, including in a November 23, 2010 Politico.com article and a November 12, 2010 Wall Street Journal article.

The 2019 Politico.com article mentioned above compared Pelosi's use of Air Force jets to those of her recent predecessors:

FIRST IN PLAYBOOK -- SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI won't be changing her flying habits now that she has regained the speaker's gavel. The California Democrat "intends to travel commercially," according to her deputy chief of staff Drew Hammill. The speaker can make use of an Air Force jet to travel around the country given she is second in line to the presidency.

PELOSI used military planes to fly back and forth to San Francisco during her early years as speaker the first time around, drawing criticism from some quarters. Pelosi and her predecessor Denny Hastert used the military planes for security reasons at the direction of the House sergeant-at-arms.

JOHN BOEHNER and PAUL RYAN both opted against using government-funded private jets during their speakerships, though both used chartered planes for some political travel. Pelosi has always traveled commercially for political travel.

There have been sightings of Pelosi on commercial flights, including in this July 22, 2019 tweet from Jeff Zeleny, a CNN journalist, which included a photo of the Speaker flying in coach. He tweeted:

Speaker Pelosi was negotiating the fine print of this budget deal from her aisle seat of a delayed Delta flight from Detroit. She's had the phone pressed to her ear for much of the last three hours. For those wondering, she's in coach.

The Facebook post not only claims that Pelosi routinely flies to and from her district using Air Force aircraft, but that she also demanded use of a larger jet. Similar claims have been made, at least to around the time she first became speaker, according to a December 28, 2008 debunk of the claim by FactCheck.org. Back then, when Pelosi was routinely using an Air Force jet, she flew in one similar to that of her predecessors, the article said:

The Democratic House speaker normally flies in a 12-seat Air Force jet, just as her Republican predecessor did. This rumor stems from a request by the House sergeant at arms, not Pelosi, for a jet large enough to reach California without refueling.

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  Olivera Perkins

Olivera Perkins is a veteran journalist and fact checker at Lead Stories, who has covered a variety of beats, including labor, employment and workforce issues for several years at The Plain Dealer in Cleveland. Olivera has received state and national awards for her coverage, including those from the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing (SABEW). She was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University.

Read more about or contact Olivera Perkins

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