Editor's note: Each week, WorldNetDaily White House correspondent Les Kinsolving asks the tough questions no one else will ask. And each week, WorldNetDaily brings you the transcripts of those dialogues with the president and his spokesman. In today's briefing, Kinsolving asked Presidential Press Secretary Ari Fleischer about the president's intentions on allowing commercial pilots to be armed.
WND: Ellen Saracini, who is the widow of one of the airline pilots murdered on 9-11, has said that her husband wanted to be armed, and, "if he had been armed, the loss of life and property damage could have been vastly different." And my question, wouldn't the president consider, as a wonderful remembrance of 9-11, a stopping of all of the present disarming of our pilots as pleaded by this widow and supported by such an overwhelming majority of both the House and last night by the Senate?
FLEISCHER: Adm. [James] Loy, the head of the Transportation Security Administration, has sent a letter up to Sen. Hollings on the Hill, dealing with this very issue. There is an important debate under way in the Congress about the best way to provide security and protection for airline travelers. And it is increasingly looking like the conclusion of the Congress that they would like to arm America's airline pilots.
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The administration believes that there are a number of security concerns that need to be addressed as the Congress proceeds. And the Congress will have its chance, as they meet in the conference, if the Senate is able to pass a homeland security bill, to address these issues.
And these issues are very important, and the president hopes that Congress will take a thoughtful approach to these. These issues involve the proper way to train pilots who may not be proficient as law-enforcement officials or federal air marshals in the use of weapons, especially in a confined space. These are airline pilots, and even those who maybe come out of the military would have to be trained in a very different security environment for how to use these if they ever had to use them, in a way that protects the passengers as well as the integrity of an airborne aircraft.
There is the question of what to do with these weapons once a pilot leaves the cockpit. How would a pilot travel with a weapon? How is that weapon secured? Would the weapon be left in the cockpit, where airline crews would come in and have access to it? Or would the pilot be expected to take it out and walk around airline terminals with it, in which case how would the weapon be kept safe as a pilot walks around an airline terminal?
The training program that would have to be required so that pilots could do this right raises important issues that Congress has to consider. There's also an important issue in terms of the time that it would take a pilot to be removed from his duties or her duties to fly an airplane to be trained, and the impact that would have on air travel.
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And so the president has asked for the Congress to consider these safety features very carefully. The president understands Congress' intent here. The president wants to work with Congress to provide this safety to passengers, and the president hopes that there is a way that we can do this together.
WND: On another issue, the Associated Press quoted Richard Newman of Philadelphia, who noted as a recent anchorman for WTXF, "Television news is one of the last bastions of open, blatant racism. The news business moves people around based on race." Which he knows from experience, because he notes that he was replaced as anchor by a black man because he is white, and the station told him the newscast "looked lily white."
And my question: Since I believe the president has always opposed racial discrimination, he opposes discrimination against whites as well as against blacks, doesn't he, Ari?
FLEISCHER: Lester, the president's position on all these matters is that people should be hired on the basis of merit, and hired in accordance with the laws of our land.
WND: Great. I really appreciate these answers today, Ari. I'm very touched.