Rep. Alan Grayson, the outspoken Florida Democrat, has been a big critic of several military contractors, especially Blackwater, the company now known as Xe. But last week, Grayson, on congressional business in Niger, found himself in a dicey situation when violence broke out and a coup was underway. (Grayson could hear the gunfire from a nearby building.) After a stay at the U.S. Embassy, Grayson was able to catch a flight, arranged by the State Department, out of Niger to Burkina Faso, from which he returned to the United States.
And who ran the flight that evacuated Grayson from the dangerous situation in Niger? None other than Blackwater. Late this afternoon, Grayson's office confirmed that it was an Xe flight that took the lawmaker from Niger to Burkina Faso.
So now, having been helped by the company he so often targeted, might Grayson go a little easier on the folks at Blackwater/Xe? Sort of. "The flight was arranged through the State Department," spokesman Todd Jurkowski -- who was helpful and forthright -- told me today. "The congressman did not know, and frankly did not care, who owned the plane."
"The congressman does not deny that there is admirable work being done by some employees of private contractors," Jurkowski continued. "However, he stands by his criticism of companies who have been found to cheat the American people, defraud our government, and unnecessarily risk the lives of members of our military, all in the name of making a profit."
Count that as an ever-so-slight softening of Grayson's position. There's nothing like being caught in a tight spot on the other side of the world to make you grateful -- at least a little -- for a ride to safety.