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

White House press corps grounded in Turkey

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/04/01/art.getty.obama.smiles.jpg caption="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. Willy Brown

    For every 4 years of democrat disaray come at least 10 years of republican control.

    April 7, 2009 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  2. proud army navy mom

    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.

    This is exactly what's wrong with the press. not investigating for answers, acting and reporting on rumors or outright lies. Sounds like a bunch of spoiled imbeciles to me.

    oooh please, if Jake Tapper and Ed Henry is among that group, please leave them in Turkey, that way we won't have to put up with their partisan idiocy.

    April 7, 2009 10:18 pm at 10:18 pm |
  3. JKT

    If any normal traveller got stranded in the same situation, they would not receive "double miles", though I think they would normally receive a hotel and food vouchers. There are many worse places to be "stuck" than Istanbul...hope these folks go out and enjoy some tasty raki, donner, and loukum and make the most of it!

    April 7, 2009 10:38 pm at 10:38 pm |
  4. Rushlican Charlotte, NC

    It would be fine to leave them over there permanently; perhaps, they might even begin to appreciate their positions.

    April 7, 2009 11:00 pm at 11:00 pm |
  5. Roger from CA

    Oh, PLEASE tell me that the "conspiracy theorists" were just joking around. If not, this shows everything that's wrong with modern "journalism" in a microcosm.

    April 7, 2009 11:04 pm at 11:04 pm |
  6. Penn Voter

    Excellent, can we leave them there? At least long enoug that our politicians will realize that they need to get to work and stop pimping around in front of the media.

    April 7, 2009 11:23 pm at 11:23 pm |
  7. Flo

    conspiracy theorist even in the press corp..............who of thunk it. Sometimes an apple is just an apple.

    April 7, 2009 11:47 pm at 11:47 pm |
  8. Georgie,Ohio

    I vote it was a ploy.

    April 7, 2009 11:47 pm at 11:47 pm |
  9. Ann

    Sounds intentional...

    April 7, 2009 11:55 pm at 11:55 pm |
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