Reporter grandstands at Pentagon briefing by asking top Air Force commander stupid question

Bloomberg’s Tony Capaccio questions US Air Force Central Command Lt. Gen. Charles Brown, Jr during a Centcom Commander briefing in February 2015.

Whoever said “there are no stupid questions” clearly missed the briefing.

In what can only be described as a journalistic “that guy” moment, Bloomberg reporter and possible garden gnome Tony Cappacio derailed the entire USAF CENTCOM press briefing with a question more suitable for The View than a Pentagon press conference.

Following the introductory remarks (and strategic chair adjustment) of US Air Force Central Command Lt. Gen. Charles Brown, Jr., Cappacio was allowed the opening question of the press conference- an event centered around the air campaign to deal with Islamic State forces during Operation Inherent Resolve. Prior to the question and answer period, Brown lauded the accuracy of USAF assets, stating that “we are conducting the most precise air campaign in history”.

Unfortunately for the General, Cappacio wasn’t listening- and his question had more to do with the 2016 Presidential Campaign than the airstrikes themselves.

“There’s been a lot of campaign rhetoric around the country from Ted Cruz, the Presidential candidate, on ‘carpet bombing ISIL”, Cappacio said, grabbing his shoulder with his other arm as if common sense attempted to fire a wounding shot to prevent his question. “From your perspective’, he bravely continued, ‘is that the… that the most correct way to review the use of airpower against ISIL? If not, why not?”

In what was easily 50% feed delay and 50% disbelief, General Brown stared blankly at the screen.
Repeatedly stressing that carpet bombing wasn’t effective in this campaign, he again cited the use of precision-guided munitions against the Islamic State forces, given that the enemy does not congregate in large enough numbers to justify such a tactic as carpet bombing and that the US does its best to minimize civilian casualties.

Undeterred and possibly confused while ‘listening’ and ‘waiting for his turn to speak’, Cappacio then asked if ISIL had presented themselves in large enough numbers to justify carpet bombing. Asking his loaded question a different way, he gave visualization of “mass formations, at night (and) in the open”.

General Brown again stressed that the ISIL troops generally don’t mass and that they take refuge in places where carpet bombing would incur heavy civilian casualties. “With the precision we do have, we can drop one or two munition in an area and actually do the job without carpet bombing”, Brown said.

Another correspondent was immediately chosen to ask questions.

While the remainder of the nearly hour-long event brought up thought-out and solid questions concerning US air efforts in the conflict (Russo-American relations, F-22 maintaining air superiority and how the US and Russian aircraft can coexist in the same warzone), we couldn’t help but feel like we had lost brain cells following Cappacio’s jejune question- one clearly meant to be almost entirely unrelated, inappropriate and very loaded in a political sense (at a military briefing).

On the flip side of the coin, young Washington Post correspondent and combat-tested former Marine, Thomas Gibbons, offered an impressive inquiry about the situation and capabilities of the Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) units in the region.

Oh well, I guess someone has to pick up the ball when it gets dropped.

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  • Andy Wolf

    Andy Wolf is an Appalachian native who spent much of his youth and young adulthood overseas in search of combat, riches, and adventure- accruing decades of experience in military, corporate, first responder, journalistic and advisory roles. He resides in North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains with his K9 companion, Kiki.

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