Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price on Saturday defended his using of private planes for official travel, saying he welcomes an internal review of the flights that have recently come under scrutiny but acknowledged “the optics in some of this don’t look good.”
He promised to stop flying private on official business until the review is done.
“I don’t think there will be any charter trips until this review is complete," Price told host Leland Vittert on Fox News’ America's News Headquarters. "I think that’s appropriate because of the concerns that we’ve heard.”
Price said all the flights were work-related and used for official business, including for trips related to the opioid crisis or the recent hurricanes.
“But we’ve heard the criticism,” Price said. “We’ve heard the concerns. And we take that very seriously and have taken it to heart.”
The HHS inspector general's office said Friday the agency is reviewing Price's charter flights to see if they violated government travel regulations, which generally require officials to minimize costs.
“We will cooperate fully with it,” Price said. “I instituted or initiated as well an internal departmental review of the procedures and processes that we go through for official travel to determine whether there are any changes or reforms that are necessary. And if there are, then we look forward to instituting those, because we welcome this review.”
He added, “We want to make certain that we have the full confidence not just of this administration but the American people.”
Price, a fiscal hawk as a Republican congressman, was asked to respond to past comments of him criticizing then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in 2010 for flying “over our country in your luxury jet.”
“I think the issue with the speaker, the former speaker, was a different matter,” he said.
Politico first reported on Price's trips earlier this week. According to the outlet, Price flew on charters to visit community health centers in New Hampshire and Pennsylvania. One leg was from Dulles International Airport in the Washington suburbs to Philadelphia International Airport, a distance of 135 miles.
On Saturday, Price said the private plane travel is not the norm for him.
“We’ve taken many, many trips in cars, sometimes four and five hours at a time,” he said. “So this isn’t the routine. These were 11 trips about an eight month period of time.”
Fox News’ Alex Pappas and The Associated Press contributed to this report.