Gov. Mike Huckabee last week told a statewide public television audience that his travel on a State Police airplane is for “official business” and authorized by state law. He explained his refusal to answer questions on the subject from the Arkansas Times because the newspaper is “not really representative of journalism.”
Huckabee made his comments on the Jan. 5 broadcast of “Arkansans Ask: Governor Mike Huckabee” on the Arkansas Educational Television Network. A viewer’s question submitted to the moderator, Steve Barnes, prompted an 8-1/2 minute exchange about the issue.
The Times first reported in October about Huckabee’s use of the taxpayer-financed aircraft for out-of-state trips. There is no state law specifically authorizing use of the plane for the governor’s travels. The State Police say they provide transportation for him under a law making gubernatorial security part of the agency’s duties. Neither the State Police nor the governor has been willing to say why security needs favor use of the police plane over cheaper transportation.
Huckabee has refused to answer questions from the Times, with his spokesman claiming “security considerations.”
However, Huckabee answered the viewer query and Barnes’ follow-up questions, and even encouraged Barnes to comprehensively cover the subject during the February edition of “Arkansans Ask.” He made it clear that he was willing to answer questions if they were not posed by the Times.
“Well, bring [the questions] with you next month and we’ll go over every one you want to go through,” Huckabee said. “Bring a list next month, we’ll do it on television. Because I’ve got nothing to hide on this. I mean, it’s not like I’m afraid of the questions or the answers. But I feel like if we do it on television, at least my side of the story is going to get out there.”
Here are excerpts from a transcript of the exchange between Barnes (in italics) and the governor:
Here’s an East Arkansas question. What gives you the authority to use the State Police airplane for your transportation?
The state law. … And we’re very careful about how we use it. We use it for official business. …
But it just is a part of the job. I assure you there is no luxury involved in it. Anyone who has flown about a lot in a small plane would know better than that. But the allegations that it’s abused or that I am just flying around just to have fun is just simply not true. …
All right. It’s been suggested … that you have taken the state police plane to run in a marathon in D.C. and for other non-official uses.
And typically that stuff comes from anonymous blog sites and it’s half-cocked and half-baked allegations from people with an agenda.
Case in point: that I took the state plane to run a marathon. [Editor’s note: he also took his wife, son and daughter-in-law.] There were many activities that I was involved in when I was in Washington that particular weekend. Not the least of which was meetings with the National Governors Association; taping both public service announcements, interviews and meeting with people at the Discovery Health Channel to promote the Healthy America agenda through National Governors. There were several other things that were on the agenda. So I didn’t just use the state plane to go fly to Washington to run a marathon.
But again, that’s part of the world in which we live where it’s easy for people to make all sorts of allegations and then build upon them and stack other things upon them. That’s life.
Well, this is the Arkansas Times which has been writing about it. I don’t want to play coy, I’m not trying to … Why not answer their questions? The Times, as I understand it, the Times —
In 10 years they have never been responsible with the truth whenever it relates to me. Why should I start believing they are going to be now?
But do you not, sir, owe an explanation?
To them? No.
Well, to anybody.
I’m giving you one because I think you are a responsible journalist. But I’m not going to deal with people who, no matter what I tell them — my experience over several years showed me that — no matter what I tell them they are going to print whatever fits the story they want to write. And their factual errors repeatedly. And their just complete inability to be objective tells me they’re not a journalist. They’re not really representative of journalism.
Journalism looks for truth, it looks for it objectively. And when it finds the truth and maybe it doesn’t go along with their editorial position, they shrug their shoulders and they still print it.
So I’m answering your question and I would answer from responsible reporters. But I don’t feel an obligation to answer every question that’s posed to me. And certainly not from people whose agenda is anything but objective reporting of the facts.