COASTLINE, NEVADA — A spokesperson for Westerly Airlines addressed the growing controversy over a flight attendant’s decision to eject a Christian man from a flight shortly before takeoff last week. Susan Myers told reporters that the Westerly flight attendant made a decision based on his conclusion that the ejected passenger had become “a direct threat” to another passenger on the flight.
“Just shortly before flight TK421 from Chicago to Seattle took off,” Myers told the press, “a flight attendant decided that a male passenger, in his late fifties, needed to be removed from the plane. The passenger in question had been — in the view of our attendant — become overtly hostile and aggressive toward a female passenger who was praying in the Muslim tradition.”
Ms. Myers said that the Westerly flight attendant first became aware of 54-year-old Clem O’Connell when he pressed his call button to alert the flight crew about someone he said was “acting very suspiciously.” When the flight attendant heard O’Connell’s concerns, he tried to assuage them by telling Clem he had seen many Islamic Americans praying before flights, and that there was nothing to be worried about, Myers says Mr. O’Connell wasn’t satisfied. After another five minutes, he pressed the button again.
“Are you going to do anything about that potential terrorist,” Clem asked, “or do I need to do my patriotic duty and handle this myself?”
The flight attendant assured Mr. O’Connell once more that everything was okay, and asked that he prepare only himself for takeoff.
“Excuse me, sir,” Clem reportedly told the attendant, “but this is America, and if we see something we say something. Well…I saw something, and I’m saying something.”
“But, sir,” the attendant gingerly attempted a response, “what you saw is an American exercising their First Amendment rights, don’t you believe in the First Amendment, sir?”
Myers says Clem thought “long and hard” about it. Which, for O’Connell, meant about two or three seconds of thinking.
“I believe firmly in the First Amendment,” Clem answered, “that is to say I believe in it only being for Christians and maybe for Jews as long as they aren’t the, like, REALLY Jewy Jews, know what I mean?”
The flight attendant told Clem he was himself, in fact, a Jewish American.
“So then you really know what I mean about that Muslim lady over there praying to her so-called God, right,” Clem asked.
“Actually, sir, I took religious studies courses in college – ” the flight attendant started to say when Clem interrupted him.
“Oh sure, your fancy-schmancy elitist, intelligentsia clone bot factory,” Clem said dismissively, “tell me more about it.”
“Okay, I will,” the flight attendant said, continuing, “in those courses I learned that you, myself, and that nice young woman over there all, technically, pray to the exact same God. It’s just that she’s a Coke fan, I’m a Pepsi fan, and you’re a bigot.”
Clem was upset. But the flight attendant got out his smart phone, browsed to a dictionary website, and then showed Clem the definition of bigot. Clem nodded.
“Alright, I’ll give you that,” Clem admitted, “I am quite intolerant of Muslims, but that’s because if you had a bowl full of ’em, and one of them was a brown M&M, would you feel safe feeding that Starburst to your dog?”
The flight attendant didn’t really know how to answer that question. He simply repeated his request that Clem leave the Muslim woman alone and settle in for the flight to Seattle. Clem said he would, but within five minutes, he was up out of his seat and telling the woman she should have “done that Muslim shit” before she got on the flight. He told her that religious expression doesn’t apply to Muslims on airplanes, even if “those uppity New York lawyer types” don’t agree with that.
Seeing that Clem had gotten out of his seat and violated the Muslim woman’s privacy and sense of safety, the flight attendant alerted the sky marshal on the flight. Clem was asked to leave and was told Westerly would get him on the next connecting flight to Seattle. After a tense few moments between the sky marshal and O’Connell, Clem decided he would leave the flight. However, he told the flight attendant he would sue the airline for violating his “patriotic duty to stop terrorism.”
The Muslim woman’s identity was not revealed by Ms. Myers, and so she could not be reached for comment.
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