By: David Bauder, AP Television Writer
(AP) The political scoop of the year came not from some hotshot journalist, but an airplane mechanic in Pittsburgh.
Bryan Smith, a 39-year-old US Airways employee who lives in Moon Township, Pa., found out that John Kerry had chosen John Edwards as his vice presidential candidate several hours before journalists, and even before Edwards was asked Tuesday.
He posted the hot news on a little-noticed Web site, USaviation.com, and went to sleep.
Most of the nation’s top political journalists had been hunting the story for months, with some staying up much of the night Monday trying to uncover the secret.
On duty Monday night, Smith rode a golf cart through a hangar where Kerry’s 757 was resting, waiting for a trip from Pittsburgh to Indianapolis the next day. He was later told the hangar was off limits.
“They secured the hangar to keep people out of it, but they didn’t close all the doors and some of the windows were open,” Smith said.
He looked in and saw “Edwards” decals being attached to the airplane’s fuselage, then quickly covered up with brown paper and masking tape.
“I guess I looked at the right time,” he said.
After getting off work, Smith went home and, at 11:45 p.m. EDT Monday, posted a one-line message on USaviation.com, using the code name Aerosmith: “John Kerry’s 757 was in hgr 4 pit tonight John Edwards decals were being put on engine cowlings and upper fuselage.”
That was it. He didn’t wait for any response or think of seeking out any political reporters.
“At a quarter to 12 at night, I was just thinking about going to bed,” he said.
The first inkling that Web site owner Kevin Laufer had that something was up was when the Web site, used for chat on contracts and other airline news, had more than 60,000 visits on Tuesday. Usually it gets 5,000 to 10,000 a day.
The first mainstream journalist to report the Edwards selection was Andrea Mitchell on NBC’s “Today” show at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday.
Yet the story was there to be had, right there on the Web. It would have been particularly helpful to the New York Post, which put an erroneous report that Kerry had chosen Rep. Dick Gephardt on its front page Tuesday.
“They should have looked at the right place,” Smith said.