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.