White House Press Corps Accused of Pilfering Air Force One Memorabilia

By Victor Winston, updated on March 30, 2024

The integrity of the press is under scrutiny.

Members of the White House press corps have been accused of taking items marked with the Air Force One insignia, a practice that has reportedly grown under President Joe Biden's leadership and which has prompted official reminders that such behavior is unacceptable.

Breitbart News reported that this form of souvenir hunting is not new; it has quietly persisted for years. Journalists, perhaps enticed by the exclusivity of the items, have been pocketing pieces ranging from wine glasses to embroidered pillowcases, all bearing the prestigious Air Force One insignia.

Kelly O’Donnell, the leader of the White House Correspondents’ Association, felt compelled to issue a reminder. Through an off-the-record email, she stressed the obvious yet seemingly forgotten rule: stealing is not permissible. This attempt to curb the looting underscores a growing concern over journalistic integrity and the implications of such actions on public trust.

Journalists' Unapproved Souvenirs Lead to Broader Distrust

Reports indicate that it's not just isolated incidents but a widespread practice encouraged by some within the press corps. Playbook reported:

For years, scores of journalists — and others — have quietly stuffed everything from engraved whiskey tumblers to wine glasses to pretty much anything with the Air Force One insignia on it into their bag before stepping off the plane.

This alarming trend has led to stories of individuals using these stolen items in personal settings, such as dinner parties, blatantly showcasing their ill-gotten memorabilia.

The administration has taken a cautious approach to addressing this issue, hoping to quell the behavior without causing undue embarrassment to the individuals involved. An email gently suggesting that items taken "by mistake" be returned led to at least one reporter returning an embroidered pillowcase, indicating that such reminders can yield positive outcomes.

However, this issue delves deeper than mere theft. It touches upon the very heart of journalistic ethics and the role of media in society.

Media's Trustworthiness Called Into Question Amidst Unethical Practices

When a journalist gave back an item to a White House staff member, often referred to as a press wrangler, the exchange was as simple as passing a pillowcase from one hand to another. This event, though it appears trivial, highlights a larger concern regarding the media's accountability and the respect owed to the institutions they report on.

The implications extend beyond the internal ethics of the press corps. Recent polls indicate a significant decline in public trust towards the media, with a 2023 Gallup poll highlighting that confidence in the media's ability to report news fairly and accurately is at its lowest since 2016.  A staggering 50 percent of Americans believe the national media intends to mislead or misinform.

In summary, the habitual taking of Air Force One memorabilia by members of the press not only raises questions about individual integrity but also intensifies the broader crisis of confidence facing the media. Kelly O’Donnell’s reminder serves as a wake-up call to those in the profession, urging them to hold themselves to the highest ethical standards.

While a step in the right direction, the return of a stolen pillowcase signifies the beginning of a much-needed conversation about the values and practices that define quality journalism today.

About Victor Winston

Victor is a freelance writer and researcher who focuses on national politics, geopolitics, and economics.

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