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Pentagon, White House, and Media Respond to India Trip Figures: 'Absolutely Absurd


"The numbers reported in this article have no basis in reality."

On the same day an Indian news outlet reported that 34 U.S. warships would be accompanying President Obama on his trip to India, and only a day after it claimed the cost of the trip would run $200 million per day, the White House has come forward to deny those claims. And with that denial, the liberal media has seized the opportunity to attack conservatives who reported on the figures.

On Thursday, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell dismissed the warships claim as "absolutely absurd":

However, he later admitted the Defense Department “does play a role in support of Presidential missions.”

According to figures provided to ABC News by the Navy, the claim of 34 warships would mean that almost 12 percent of the Navy would be accompanying Obama:

There are 288 ships in the Navy’s fleet, currently 147 of them are away from their home port and at sea. 110 of the 147 are deployed on missions, the other 37 are involved in training. Those numbers translate to 51 percent of the total fleet being at sea right now and 38 percent of the fleet being deployed.

Using the number of 34 warships being reported by Indian media outlets, 34 ships out of 288 would mean 11.8 percent of the fleet would supposedly be working Obama security.

Later in the day, the White House spoke out about the cost claims.

"The numbers reported in this article have no basis in reality," Tommy Vietor, a White House spokesman, said regarding New Delhi TV's report.

"Due to security concerns, we are unable to outline details associated with security procedures and costs, but it's safe to say these numbers are wildly inflated," he added.

Press Secretary Robert Gibbs echoed that claim during his press briefing Thursday:

Well, we have set the record straight with you guys. I’m not going to go into how much it costs to protect the president. Costs are comparable to when President Clinton and when President Bush traveled abroad.

But that's not all he said. He also got into a contentious discussion with the press corps about the trip, specifically one reporter who pressed him on the issue:

FactCheck.org researched the costs of the trips Gibbs mentioned:

So how much did those trips cost? In the case of some Clinton trips, we have figures from a 1999 report by the U.S. General Accounting Office — now called the Government Accountability Office. The GAO said that Clinton’s trips to Africa, Chile and China in 1998 cost at least $42.8 million, $10.5 million and $18.8 million, respectively — not counting the still-classified cost of providing Secret Service protection.

In Africa, Clinton was accompanied by about 1,300 individuals — not including members of the Secret Service — representing the White House, the Department of Defense and other federal agencies. The president visited six countries in 12 days, which means the trip cost $3.6 million per day.

Clinton made the five-day Chile trip in order to attend the second Summit of the Americas — a meeting of 34 heads of state or governments from countries in the Americas — and to hold meetings with the president of Chile. About 600 individuals accompanied the president on the trip, which we calculated would have cost $2.1 million per day.

When Clinton visited China to conduct talks with the president of China, he brought along about 500 individuals. The trip lasted nine days, which works out to a little less than $2.1 million per day.

The total cost including Secret Service protection would of course be somewhat higher, but even doubling or tripling those figures and adding in an adjustment for inflation would not produce anything close to the figure given by the Indian news article for Obama’s trip.

The White House and Pentagon felt the need to speak out after conservatives had been circulating the reports throughout the day.

Sean Hannity attacked the cost:

While Glenn Beck questioned if the trip was a good idea given the security concerns:

And Rachel Maddow attacked conservatives:

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