The claim: Pelosi’s bill for alcohol on her flights is $52,000 a year and covered by taxpayer money
A claim made in 2019 by game show host Chuck Woolery regarding House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and her purported spending on alcohol during flights has resurfaced in a viral March 9 Facebook posting.
“Nancy Pelosi’s bill for alcohol on her flights from Washington to San Fran every week? We pay for it,” the post reads, accompanied by an image of Pelosi, D-Calif. “1000 dollars. On average 52,000 a year for booze. Tax payer money. Thank you very much.”
“Shouldn’t be from our dime, actually our many dollars !” the user captioned the post, which has over 800 shares.
The meme attributes the information to Woolery, who originally shared the claim in a Jan. 17, 2019, tweet that has over 17,000 retweets and 28,000 likes. Woolery has also previously promoted false claims about the coronavirus pandemic.
Another user shared a similar version of the claim on Feb. 25 with text that reads, “Well, that’s comforting, knowing this is our 3rd in command. Soon to be second more than likely, but just a mean drunk in reality.”
The Facebook users and Woolery have not returned USA TODAY’s request for comment.
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Pelosi does not drink alcohol
There is no evidence to support the claim that Pelosi spends $52,000 per year on alcohol and that it is covered by taxpayer money. Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff Drew Hamill has previously confirmed to USA TODAY that the House speaker does not drink alcohol.
It is also false to claim that Pelosi travels to her home state of California every weekend on military aircraft. In March 2020, Hamill told PolitiFact that Pelosi had access to a 12-seat Gulfstream jet from 2007 to 2011, during her first stint as speaker, but routinely started flying commercial after that.
In July 2019, she was seen flying commercial on a crowded Delta flight sitting in coach in an image captured by CNN national affairs correspondent Jeff Zeleny.
Pelosi has long been the target of misinformation in the form of altered images, which have been repeatedlydebunked by fact-checking organizations, that are designed to make her appear drunk.
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Where does the number originate from?
When asked in 2019 for evidence of the claim that Pelosi spends $52,000 a year on alcohol while flying, a spokesman for Woolery provided PolitiFact with a set of documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act by Judicial Watch, which describes itself as a right-leaning government watchdog.
Judicial Watch wrote in a press release in 2010 that findings showed Pelosi’s military travel cost the U.S. Air Force a little over $2 million over a two-year period and that $101,429.14 accounted for in-flight expenses, including food and alcohol.
However, according to Factcheck.org, that figure includes expenses other than food and booze, although congressional delegations do routinely show receipts for expensive alcohol brands such as Grey Goose and Bombay Sapphire.
Factcheck.org reported in 2010 that Judicial Watch was counting “in-flight expenses” as any non-reimbursable Air Force expenditures other than transportation costs, which includes all non-plane-related charges such as baggage fees, meeting room rentals, refreshments, lodging in U.S. territory, and ground transportation.
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Our rating: False
The claim that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s bill for alcohol on her weekly flights from California to Washington costs $52,000 a year and is covered by taxpayers is FALSE, based on our research. Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff has previously confirmed that she does not drink alcohol, and claims that she drinks have been repeatedly debunked. The claim stems from a report from Judicial Watch that included non-plane-related charges as part of “in-flight expenses.” Pelosi also no longer flies private and has been publicly seen flying commercial.
Our fact-check sources:
- USA TODAY, Oct. 12, 2020, “Fact check: False claim that Pelosi drunk in 2016 photo with Obama”
- USA TODAY, Oct. 20, 2020, “Fact check: 2016 image of Nancy Pelosi leaving a store is miscaptioned”
- USA TODAY, Aug. 11, 2020, “Fact check: Video of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, altered, selectively edited”
- Reuters, Sept. 8, 2020, “Fact check: Claim that Pelosi was removed from House for ‘drunken and disorderly conduct’ is satire”
- PolitiFact, June 12, 2020, “No, Nancy Pelosi doesn’t demand to fly on a 200-seat Boeing 757 jet with taxpayer money”
- Jeff Zeleny, July 22, 2019, tweet
- Judicial Watch via GlobeNewswire, Jan. 28, 2010, “Judicial Watch Uncovers New Documents Detailing Pelosi’s Use of Air Force Aircraft”
- Factcheck.org, March 4, 2010, “Pelosi’s Party Plane?”
- PolitiFact, Jan. 22, 2019, “Claim about Nancy Pelosi bar tab is baseless”
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