In the rush to cover a breaking news story, sometimes journalists say dumb things simply because they don't have enough information. And then there are people who really should know better.
So AOPA could not let it go when a Fox News Channel commentator allowed to go unchallenged an outrageous statement that the military summarily shoot down any small plane near Washington, D.C.
That's what former federal prosecutor and Nazi hunter John Loftus said Wednesday on Fox's Dayside with Linda Vester show, herself a former journalist. In a letter to Fox, an outraged AOPA President Phil Boyer wrote, "Loftus should know better than to advocate for the American government to kill American citizens without any effort to obtain the facts.... His repeated characterizations of private pilots as 'spoiled rich people' are eerily reminiscent of the fear-mongering and baiting tactics that characterized the war criminals he once pursued."
To Ms. Vester, Boyer said, "That he incited your audience to applaud his sensationalistic comments brings to mind a mob mentality."
Boyer continued, "It's disturbing to hear a man who made a career pursuing justice so readily call for the government to attack the lives and liberties of its citizens, especially while he sat in a television studio without access to essential information. In fact, the military did not shoot down the errant Cessna 150 precisely because they recognized it was not a threat. One of the intercepting F-16 pilots told CNN that the aircraft was not flying a threat profile, and that the Cessna pilots were clearly lost, confused, and scared.
"We can only be thankful that calm, informed professionals are watching over our security," said Boyer. "They were on the scene, knew the facts, and made the right call. Mr. Loftus would do well to learn from their example."
May 12, 2005