April 7th, 2009
07:00 PM ET
5 years ago

White House press corps grounded in Turkey

The president moved on Tuesday. Most of the White House press corps didn’t.
The president moved on Tuesday. Most of the White House press corps didn’t.

ISTANBUL, Turkey (CNN) - While President Obama took off for home around Tuesday 2 pm ET from Baghdad aboard Air Force One, the bulk of the journalists who followed him on his European journey found themselves stuck in Turkey.

Several hours before the president took flight, the United crew providing transportation for the White House Press Corps' return discovered a problem with the United 777 scheduled to leave a few hours later.

It turns out the motor that moves the captain's left chair forward to reach the controls was broken.

Hearing the news, a few eager journalists began reporting it on Facebook and Twitter. Julie Mason of the Washington Examiner, who is a frequent blogger, reported the snafu around 11:30 am ET on her own Facebook page. She says immediately she began to hear speculation from other journalists that perhaps the president would have other surprise stops beyond Baghdad, and that this delay must have been a ploy by the White House to keep the press in position. (Turns out it really was just a broken seat.)

Mason says other more colorful conspiracy theories emerged. "Maybe there was a security breach that was the reason to stay or worst case scenario the White House was telling the truth," Mason said.

Around 3:30 pm ET, it was the director of the White House travel office Peter Newell who had to deliver the ugly truth to the nearly 100 journalists eager to leave.

In front of a podium in the hotel ballroom where the traveling press was working, Newell explained United ordered the part to be delivered on the next flight from London to Istanbul - but unfortunately, that part didn't make it on board. The airline ordered for it to be put on the second flight from London, but for some reason the motor didn't make that flight either. So now United is rerouting a United 777 out of Dubai to travel to Istanbul so the crew can literally pull the captain's chair out of its cockpit and switch it out with motorless chair on the press corps' plane sitting on the runway.

"I'm just the messenger," Newell pleaded to the incredulous crowd. He then offered goodies and condolences. He said United was giving double miles for the journey, and was planning to join with Air Partner (the broker that arranges White House press charters) to pay for another night's stay in Istanbul, plus dinner.

The press corps' luggage, which was checked in hours ago, is now in the belly of the broken plane, along with all the TV gear. "You'll see your luggage when you get to Washington," Newell said.

The reaction from the White House press corps was mixed. The corps is made of up wide-eyed newbies, as well as whiners who have already traveled the world.

CNN White House Senior Producer Emily Schultze simply called it a "hitch-in-yer-gitalong." CBS pool producer Kia Baskerville began passing around a tray of "Turkish Delight" (a local jelly dessert) offering "at your service, ma'am." Her colleague Tom Seems' retirement will have to be postponed one more day. Several correspondents got on the phone to break the news to their spouses and kids. After a grueling eight days of Obama coverage, most headed to the hotel bar.


Filed under: White House
soundoff (34 Responses)
  1. Mike Dallas

    "she began to hear speculation from other journalists that perhaps the president would have other surprise stops beyond Baghdad, and that this delay must have been a ploy by the White House to keep the press in position"

    It appears neo-cons have also invaded the journalist pool with "conspiracy theories" about President Obama.

    After the knife issue with a journalist maybe more distance should be put between the journalist sand President Obama, close enough to see him but not harm him, including the press pool!

    April 7, 2009 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  2. Lynn

    I ahve thoroughly enjoyed Suzanne Malveaux"s daily reports during President Obama's trip. She is always an objective, perceptive reporter.

    However, imagine how tired the president must be...and I will bet there are two very excited girls waiting for his return!!

    April 7, 2009 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  3. Diane Dagenais Turbide

    After eight days away, I'm sure everyone was anxious to get back home!

    April 7, 2009 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  4. 60's survivor

    kind of funny! I really like hearing all the conspiracy theories really shows us where we mentally!

    April 7, 2009 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  5. Sue M

    Better safe than sorry, what if something besides the seat was bad and they had a crash or a near miss, they would still blame the White House for trying to keep the press away........never satisfied........

    April 7, 2009 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  6. lulumckee

    I am sure they will find a way to get the party line out. After all, they are serving a grand and glorious god.

    April 7, 2009 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  7. Tosin

    That tells me that Faith is not on their side. I could care less about the Press getting stranded. That saves us from negativity for a day.

    April 7, 2009 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  8. malclave

    That's uncalled for on the part of the President.

    If a guy offers the terms "put out or get out" and his date does indeed put out, he should give her a ride home. And the press has certainly been putting out for Obama.

    April 7, 2009 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
  9. RLG

    Why does everybody always think the worst rather than just the fact that the seat was actually broken?

    April 7, 2009 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  10. gl, Pittsburgh

    Good! The President need some time to himself anyway!

    April 7, 2009 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  11. Perusing-Through

    I guess being a "high flying world traveler" is rough. . . . . Hold on, allow me to pull out my violin.

    April 7, 2009 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  12. sandy

    Oh, that's to bad. So sorry. haha

    April 7, 2009 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  13. Steve

    Welcome to what the average flying public has to contend with! Boo hoo!

    April 7, 2009 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  14. Grumpy

    Gadfry what a tragedy !

    April 7, 2009 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  15. Jimmy the Greek

    Love the last sentence of the article,

    "After a grueling eight days of Obama coverage, most headed to the hotel bar."

    Obama makes me want to drink too... heavily!!

    April 7, 2009 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  16. Mark, B'ham., Al.

    If the Press was going to Iraq with the President then it is good they were grounded to mess up his photo-op with the Troops. It is too bad he does not want the Troops to get the latest in Armoured Vehicles with the budget cuts for Defense and ensure we always have air superiority with the F-22.

    April 7, 2009 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
  17. K Faulkner

    Wow! I'm glad we cleared that up. Fortunately it wasn't a socialist plot.

    April 7, 2009 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
  18. allenshadow

    Good place for y'all to be, getting to see our Whirling President turn Turks around as he did with the EU heads of state.

    April 7, 2009 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  19. demwit

    How ironically justified...

    April 7, 2009 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  20. Eileen

    Good, I am sick of there lies anyway. Maybe they will be quiet for a while.

    April 7, 2009 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  21. Kim Ohio Independent Mom

    Do tell me. This is Obama's fault????

    April 7, 2009 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  22. Too Funny

    Does anyone really feel empathy for these forever whining media types? I definitely don't. Karma is a good thing...

    April 7, 2009 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  23. knowdalaw

    The news about the White House press corps grounded in Turkey is not surprising.

    The press corps should realize that anytime the President does something sneaky, that they will be out in the cold. Take for instance the time in Hawaii when he told them they had the day off. Then he took the girls for ice cream. Now he jets off to Iraq, but puts them in a holding position so they will not get the word out.

    When will the media stop finding everything that Obama does is cute? You need to say, "Enough is enough" and walk away altogether from covering him. It is an expense anyway, not a sweeping income. Let him be without media for a while. You know he loves to be "the center of attention." What would he do without it?

    April 7, 2009 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
  24. Saad

    As long as they return home safely, they can be delayed for days.... It shouldn't matter.....

    I can see hate mongers having a field day with us..... Rush, Cheney, Coulter, Hannity..... you go guys.... have a blast with this news.

    April 7, 2009 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  25. mb-texas

    reporters have to report something to het paid.Even to making up a story that was not correct.

    April 7, 2009 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
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