Award–winning journalist Andrea Bernstein is Senior Editor for Politics & Policy for WNYC News. She has previously served as Metro Editor, Political Director, Director of Transportation Nation, and Senior Reporter.
UPDATED FAA Chief Randy Babbitt will take a leave of absence after being arrested for drunk driving Saturday night.
Federal officials just released a statement saying:
"DOT officials learned of FAA Administrator Babbitt’s arrest on Saturday night within the last hour. Administrator Babbitt has requested, effective immediately, to take a leave of absence from the FAA. That request has been granted and Deputy Administrator Michael Huerta will serve as acting administrator. DOT officials are in discussions with legal counsel about Administrator Babbitt’s employment status."
Babbitt was alone in his vehicle Saturday night when he was arrested in Fairfax, Virginia, for driving on the wrong side of the road. No one was injured.
The DOT statement -- sent out mid-afternoon Monday, suggests that the DOT only learned of Babbitt's arrest at the same time reporters did.
Despite the embarrassing arrest of a top-level transportation official, the White House declined to immediately call for Babbitt's resignation. "What he have at this point is a matter that just came to light in the last hour or so,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters when asked if President Obama would ask for Babbitt's resignation.
Babbitt's boss, Ray LaHood the Secretary of Transportation, has been fiercely committed to safety in all forms, and has mounted a national campaign to combat distracted driving.
The news of Babbitt's arrest and leave comes just as members of Congress are involved in sensitive negotiations over the FAA's fund authorization.