Should a Man Wearing a T-Shirt Threatening to Kill Journalists Have Been Kicked Off a United Flight Yesterday?

A couple of weeks ago an American Airlines flight attendant wouldn’t let singer and reality star Aubrey O’Day fly without changing her shirt – and since she didn’t have another one, turning it inside out – due to the profanity spelled out on it.

She could have gone into the lavatory to change. Instead she complained that the airline made her take off her shirt in front of other passengers. Which may have just been her way of sticking it to airline rules she considered prudish.

But what would United do? While Snopes actually has an entry debunking whether the airline actually has an ‘armed seating and apparel division’ (the truth is it was eliminated as part of the “Project Quality” cuts under ex-CEO Jeff Smisek) the airline is now coming under fire for doing nothing over a passenger’s t-shirt.

On United flight UA824 from Los Angeles to Boston yesterday a passenger was wearing a t-shirt advocating hanging of journalists.

Jessica Sidman reports that her brother was on board, and he reported the shirt to a flight attendant. He said that he “didn’t want one passenger threatening to kill other passengers.”

The flight attendant spoke to the captain. Security came on board to talk to her brother, explained that they couldn’t do anything about an offensive t-shirt but offered to let him take another flight (United’s next LA-Boston flight would have been a red eye but there are countless connecting options through Denver, Houston, and Chicago).

United’s contract of carriage says they can remove passengers “who are barefoot or not properly clothed” – the latter suggesting, I think, not being properly covered rather than for the message the clothing conveys. The word “disruption” appears only in the document when discussing acceptance of service animals and emotional support animals.

The airline has committed to remove passengers via law enforcement only when safety and security is an issue.

It seems to me the only way that safety and security becomes an issue from this shirt is by way of the response it evokes from others, and United properly offered to allow a customer voicing a concern to take a different flight if he preferred.

Much of the discussion on legal twitter has been around the first amendment, whether this shirt is expression or an exception for ‘true threats’. The first amendment is at issue at the government security checkpoint. It’s not an issue on board United Airlines.

Make no mistake the shirt is deplorable. Media criticism is one thing but what kind of person takes the view that journalists should be hanged, and indeed dons a t-shirt in public to broadcast it?

It also wasn’t a specific threat, or a credible threat, against any individual and there was nothing to suggest the passenger wearing it would be a safety risk for the aircraft. I think United ought to be within its rights to enforce a dress code. Indeed, they ought to enforce the one that they have with respect to bare feet! But in the moment the response from the airline’s seems appropriate, as borne out by the fact that the flight proceeded without further interruption (and even arrived in Boston on time).

(HT: Reid F.)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. The shirt does not look “homemade” either which means they are very likely commercially available. Watching folks who board aircraft these days is generally quite entertaining as I have witnessed bad fashion, bad taste and very bad slogan attire. Quite a few passengers do not present sense or sensibility and it is really kind of sad.
    Personally I would not have felt too terribly threatened by this LA to BOS passenger but I’m sure a couple of folks would be.

  2. The fact that this @sshat thinks it’s acceptable to wear a shirt like this in public is a growing problem, IMO. I would’ve asked for him to be removed if I’d seen it too. To be clear, I couldn’t care about shirts with bad language on them but this is something else.

  3. Some shops and restaurants have a sign saying “No shirt, no shoes, no service”. I’d much rather have a shirtless, barefooted guy sitting next to me than a guy advocating violence against innocent people. The First Amendment guarantees that the government won’t persecute him for wearing that shirt. However, he does not have the right to wear that shirt wherever he pleases and his employer certainly has the right fire him for it. Delta has every right to kick him off that flight.

  4. Deplorable? LOL. Grow up. It’s called humor and far less offensive than what many TDS idiots wear and say. Perhaps if more “journalists” were honest and not lying sacks of shit DNC-shills, the national discourse would be different.

  5. Airlines nowadays are glorified public transport. You start cracking down on the obviously bad “message” shirts, and you WILL face a backlash when you don’t crack down on others. Who’s to judge really? Big Brother? It just seems like a MAJOR hassle. It’s ripe for lawsuits, forced removals, and double standards. Seriously, It’s writing on a 10$ shirt, in a country where freedom of speech is one of our most sacred rights – Is this really a hill we wanna die on?

    With that said: The person is not a credible threat because we all arrive two hours early, and go through an elite(LOL) security team that is dedicated to fondling us and making sure that no shenanigans can happen. The absolute worst that can happen to someone flying on the same plane as this guy – Is that as they walk by him, if they stare real hard at his chest, they can read an offensive message. Seems a bit ludicrous to remove him by force….

  6. This shirt is a terrorist threat…designed to terrorize and intimidate…This reprehensible idiot should have been removed from the flight…I will boycott UA for allowing this…

  7. “Deplorable? LOL. Grow up. It’s called humor and far less offensive than what many TDS idiots wear and say. Perhaps if more “journalists” were honest and not lying sacks of shit DNC-shills, the national discourse would be different.”

    Where’s the like button on this thing?

  8. OMG!

    The shirt is DEPLORABLE? Do you really think this individual was advocating the murder of journalists? REALLY?

    He obviously has a point of view about the quality and fairness of jounalism as it exists today. One might argue over the taste or humor of his form of expression.

    I shake my head frequently when seeing people in public with various things written on their clothing.

    But does anyone actually believe that he was threatenening anyone or any group of people?

  9. Love the defense that some have stated above: It’s just humor! It’s funny, see! Stick it to the libs!

    It’s a problem when a certain amount of the population has a serious challenge understanding what this county is about. They have crawled out from under a rock for their moment in the sun, and feel that they are in control… and what they accomplish is showing America how far we still have to go.

    Old, white, baby-boomer. Not a surprise. Where does one have to go in their thought process to believe that the first amendment… one of the key cornerstones of who we are as a nation… is something that can be jettisoned?

    I fear the recovery from where we are as a nation is a long journey that we may not have time to accomplish.

  10. T-shirt Derangement Syndrome. BTW, when “journalists” conspire with Libtards to attempt a coup d’etat, the least they deserve is hanging.

    And if you’re dumb enough to think the issue is a benign garment, you missed the point.

  11. Make no mistake the current state of journalism is deplorable. The media ought to be criticized as yellow journalism is running rampant. Personally, I don’t feel threatened by the shirt and I am an old journalism school grad and past sigma delta chi alumni.

  12. How about a shirt saying “Rope. Tree. MAGAts. Some assembly required.” It’s funny, right? And you’re just a snowflake if you’d be offended by it.

  13. The shirt gave me a chuckle. It is obviously humor. An internet search would show that it used to be sold by Walmart until the rage mob set in and shut it down. It would be even funnier if the front side of the shirt had CNN being hanging on a tree by a rope.

    Reporter, CNN, MSNBC, NBR, Politico (Gary’s favorite), Huff Post, Washington Post,…..on toilet paper would be hilarious.

    LOL: Hey, what about a Fake News latrine, with pictures of Media talking heads.

    I better stop making jokes or the tolerant left wing thought police will reinvent the guillotine, just for me. I cannot stop: to quote Monte Python: “Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition.”

  14. There were a couple nazi in black clothes with swastika tattoos, they boarded a plane. As a jewish, I do not give you know what for this kind of crap, ( and nobody on the plane for this matter).
    To report the t-short?!! Hey folks stop to be offended, go on with your business, be happy. Enjoy your flight 🙂

  15. Shepard Smith has left Fox News, anchoring his afternoon newscast, Shepard Smith Reporting, for the last time Friday. At the end of the newscast, Smith said, “Even in our currently polarized nation, it’s my hope that the facts will win the day, that the truth will always matter, that journalism and journalist will thrive.”

  16. 1. How much you want to bet that the complaining passenger refused the offer to be re-accommodated on a later flight? If so, it exposes his real motive was political correctness, not safety or security: His fake “security“ concerns vanish the second he would be inconvenienced by them.

    2. The bigger argument for a dress code is far more compelling. I wear a jacket, shirt and tie when flying, and it’s a good idea if all men do. Look at onboard pictures from the 50s and early 60s: Sometimes the best way forward is to retrace steps that worked.

  17. Airlines should have a dress code. It sucks in the summer to get stuck next to a person in a tank top and flip flops who stinks from his armpits to his feet. Then toss in the type of tourist moron is under the impression he’s supposed to get drunk on the flight.

  18. humor is not a defense for threatening and bullying behavior. For example, the argument that you were just meaning to be funny will not help you in a sexual harassment lawsuit.
    Look at online bullying and trolling: the trolls incite violence and harassment and identity theft (doxxing) and then later say that they were just kidding. But it’s not a joke to the person who was harassed and threatened and had to change their number.

    Let’s take this thing apart: this t-shirt refers to a public lynching of journalists, in a country where journalism as a profession, and therefore fact reporting itself are under threat. Criticizing journalism as a profession isn’t a stance with merit, since it basically means that you are against the reporting of facts. If you criticize HOW journalism is done, then you can start making valid arguments. Or, you can criticize opinion pieces in newspapers (which are not journalism). Or specific newspapers or TV stations you disagree with. Or point out flaws in reporting – anything that actually says something and might help our shared goal as a people, which is to eventually arrive at a set of facts and a narrative that is true. Every newspaper has fact checkers by the way, so you can always contact a newspaper and point out facts that are wrong (if you can point to evidence).
    This t-shirt could be humor if the joke was made in front of an audience who wanted to hear a joke (like in the setting of a comedy club, or among a group of people who know each other)- in this case, it is forced upon hundreds of strangers who happen to look at the shirt. It is therefore neither opinion, nor humor, but rather just harassment, and, if you are a journalist, a murder threat.
    First amendment does not apply since the plane is owned by United, so it is up to the airline to decide what to do. They could prohibit the passenger to ever flying on their planes ever again, if they wanted.
    A reasonable thing to do would be to update their offensive-clothing guidelines so that in the future they can force somebody like this to change their shirt or get off the plane.

  19. Good going Straw Horse Gus. I do not think there was a single sentence in your rant that was not a straw horse or a false tautology.

    Cannot stop making fun of you clowns.

    Fake News Mainstream Media are “reporting of facts” according to Gus. Gonna die laughing. Every day, make up something new out of of whole cloth that fits the narrative.

    Truth is, left wingers like Gus try to bully you into their opinion by calling you every name in the book. Every comedy show on TV is one attack after another against conservatives with cheers rather than laughs. However, if you turn the script, they go crying foul and try to get you banned. As Trump says: Losers.

  20. Cannot resist poking the politically correct rage mob:

    Q: What is the difference between a Fake New Propagandist and a Trampoline.
    A: You take your shoes off before you jump on a trampoline.

    I am laughing for real. Probably get banned for this one.

  21. If not kicked off for the shirt – they should have kicked him off for wearing those sunglasses on the back of his stupid fat head.

  22. @Other Just Saying – you are not making real arguments, you are just getting defensive and angry because you don’t have specific facts you can cite (with sources and proof etc) to back up your bold claims.
    Journalism as a profession is tasked with reporting news. There are tens of thousands of journalists in the world, and obviously not all of what they write is fake, and neither is the vast majority of what gets published by newspapers. (an opinion different from yours is not “fake news” – it’s just an opinion you don’t agree with. Facts that you wish were different, are also not “fake news”). The term “fake news” actually originated because of made-up (truly fake) stories circulating on facebook (like PizzaGate which was promptly debunked but gained many followers as a conspiracy theory) during the 2016 election.
    To call mainstream news organizations, which have been around for many decades and done important reporting on Watergate and the Vietnam War and corruption and all kinds of important stories and are full of factual reporting, to just call them all “fake news” for everything they do stops the discussion because you are not engaging in the discussion in good faith, at that point you are just lying.
    Engaging in a discussion in good faith would be pointing to specific examples of bad reporting, and what exactly is not true about the stories.

    Now you are going to say that I’m being politically correct, but actually I’m just insisting on having a factual argument, or else, no argument. Nobody is forcing you to post here, and you can say what you want, but if post something that is factually wrong, I can in turn react and correct it.
    Calling me a clown doesn’t help your case – you must not have been very good at the debate team in your high school if you are so sensitive that you resort to name calling as soon as somebody makes an argument contradicting you.
    I will accept if your political opinion is different from mine, but not if you say that facts are not facts, or that literally everything in the Washington Post (random example of a paper) is fake or untrue.

    None of this has much to do with the t-shirt by the way.

  23. “Make no mistake the shirt is deplorable. Media criticism is one thing but what kind of person takes the view that journalists should be hanged, and indeed dons a t-shirt in public to broadcast it?”

    Whole bunch of deplorables were shouting LOCK HIM UP about the wrong guy two nights ago. I am guessing those kinds of people wear such shirts in public.

  24. @Other Just Saying – You have made me a better person, albeit inadvertently. You know, I’ve really gone through a number of phases regarding your comments. At first, I was really dubious. Then I really grew to love your comments. Twisting everything so that you could look at things through a political perspective, wildly inaccurate facts, being so far to the political right as to make Rush Limbaugh look like a Communist, completely ignoring anybody else’s points or arguments. This was gold! You just can’t put a price on satire like this. Then I realized that you actually meant it and were just trolling people who argued using facts. I consequently became annoyed. I even decided to poke the troll and actively engage you. Sinking to that level was not my finest moment but I can’t blame anyone else. Fortunately, I quickly tired of poking holes in silly statements and began to consider your perspective. It must be awful to be so scared that you have to just spew hate, and I feel really sorry for you. Nonetheless, you’ve made me realize that there are people who feel that way, so now I try harder to be understanding and compassionate regarding your situation. Thank you. You have my thoughts and prayers.

  25. @Jose, it is NOT humorous to wear a T shirt like that in public, it offends many people . Would you find it humorous to see someone in a T shirt that said ” I am an IS member , give me a knife and a neck ” or similar disgusting saying . IT IS JUST NOT WHAT PEOPLE WANT TO READ IN PUBLIC.

  26. Love how Repubican trolls cover themselves with names like “Jose” to make themselves appear like those who they hate.

  27. @Vincent

    “Old, white, baby-boomer. Not a surprise. Where does one have to go in their thought process to believe that the first amendment… one of the key cornerstones of who we are as a nation… is something that can be jettisoned?”

    OOh racist and ageist, if only you insulted his gender too you could score the liberal double standard trifecta prize :-<

    Seriously how dumb are you that you are complaining about mean words on a shirt offending you while whining that someone is against the 1A when he is complaining about corporate owned news actors?

  28. Just because something is “offensive” doesn’t mean it isn’t protected as free speech. For example, the whole Black Lives Matter offends me because it is propagated by those in the racial grievance industry that profit by it. But if someone wants to wear a BLM t shirt they are feee to do so, even though I find it offensive. A t shirt poses no tangible threat to anyone. Lighten up, people and get a life.

  29. @A_B

    Why? Because I am an old white male aging baby-boomer.

    And I am neither racist nor ageist. I know who I am. And unless my eyes fail me, in that picture is a white, balding, 50’s – 60’s of age man. Sadly, could be a peer to my age group. Someone which whom I may have sitting across a table at a meeting. Do you see something that I may have missed?

    And my age group, some have a tendency to say things like: “Har har killin’ people is funny. It’s a joke! Why are you upset?”

    And seriously think that is OK.

    As a constitutionalist, the 1A rights of the press should be defended. And right now, the government head is not defending the constitution that he was sworn to defend, instead inciting violence. And a leader leads… and followers follow what they believe to be right.

    Sadly, many who seem to believe in America don’t find themselves believing in the constitution. and that is a challenge for us as a country.

    So, should he be asked to put on a different shirt? I believe yes, however it’s not my choice. I wasn’t on the plane, I wasn’t the captain or purser.

    I believe that difference of opinion is important. I believe debate build a stronger electorate. I believe that education improves this country for us all.

    I guess that old white slightly balding guy not only feels that he can live with it but can embrace it. I guess that others share that opinion. I guess lynching is OK in the USA. For some.

    The Wasington Post lost Jamal Khashoggi. Murdered and dismembered. It’s been a year. Our country has not taken any punitive action against the Saudis.

    yeah. just a joke….

  30. Ah right, internalized racism ageism and sexism, like an unfunny white uncle ruckus

    Since you care so much about journalism and how important it is, I’m sure you protested when the major internet companies decided to try and blackball Mr. Alex Jones?

    Or is this important press freedom only intended for corporate backed media companies?

  31. It is truly terrifying how much hatred and blaming exists in the United States.
    Immediately after 9/11 signs appeared saying: “United We Stand.”
    Now my feeling many times day-after-day is that the terrorists have accomplished what they set out to do. We have fragmented into small-minded group-against-group hatred and rage.
    We could not be less united or therefore more vulnerable.
    We can do interminable TSA checks, but still people bring hate and rage on-board.
    Yes, I feel threatened, not by one T-shirt or another, not by bare feet and water bottles, but by the hair-trigger, combative and unaccepting mood in our country.

  32. Yeah people should be more live and let live and not try to get people’s lives ruined for differences in opinion.

  33. @A_B

    So, your example of a shining example of a slighted journalist is Alex Jones?

    – Alex “the Government has weather weapons” Jones.

    – Alex “The Government is putting chemicals in the water to turn people Gay” Jones.

    – Alex “The Sandy hook shootings were Staged” Jones.

    – Alex “Pizzagate is a pedophile ring in a basement of a building that has no basement” Jones.

    Freedom of the press is critical. The first two can be overlooked, the 4th as well (as annoying as it was to the owner of PingPong Pizza), but the 3rd (Sandy Hook) was destructive to the parents of children killed.

    It was not the government that stopped this journalism, but his impact on those people. The individuals sued for damages based on his words.

    Was he killed? No.

    Did anyone suggest that he be hung as a penalty? No.

    Did you know that 94 journalists were killed worldwide in 2018 in doing their job? 36 so far in 2019?

    Are you defending a guy wearing a shirt who thinks that’s funny?

    Is that who you are?

    Is that what you believe we are as a country?

    Have your values and political beliefs become so base and trollish that THIS is how you feel?

    … sad.

  34. Vincent knows so much about Alex Jones, it follows that he was a regular reader.

    One has to have to be impressed by the moxie of these left wing creeps. They wrap themselves in the First Amendment while defending left wing mainstream media. However, at the same time trying to restrict all writing, speech, and jokes that they do not like.

    BTW: when the left wing speech police are going after Alex Jones, which nobody reads except Vincent, they really do not care about him. If they can censor Alex Jones, they can censor everybody. Left wing speech tyrants are always calling for conservative speech to be censored, it is just what they do.

    BTW: Fake News CNN is way worse the Alex Jones, because nobody except for Vincent reads Alex Jones, but Fake News CNN is everywhere.

  35. It’s just a t-shirt… how about: it’s just a video based on memes…

    Macabre Video of Fake Trump Shooting Media and Critics Is Shown at His Resort

    “The video depicts a scene inside the “Church of Fake News,” where parishioners rise as Mr. Trump — dressed in a black pinstripe suit and tie — walks down the aisle. Many parishioners’ faces have been replaced with the logos of news media organizations, including PBS, NPR, Politico, The Washington Post and NBC.

    Mr. Trump stops in the middle of the church, pulls a gun out of his suit jacket pocket and begins a graphic rampage. As the parishioners try to flee, the president fires at them. He shoots Black Lives Matter in the head, and also shoots Vice News.

    Some of those in the church try to apprehend Mr. Trump. He fends them off and makes his way toward the altar, knocking over several pews. He wrestles a parishioner with a Vice News logo as a face to the ground and then shoots the person at point blank range. In the background, the former F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, is seen trying to get away.

    From there, Mr. Trump attacks a range of his critics. He strikes the late Arizona senator John McCain in the back of the neck. He hits the television personality Rosie O’Donnell in the face and then stabs her in the head. He strikes Representative Maxine Waters, Democrat of California. He lights the head of Senator Bernie Sanders, a Democratic presidential rival, on fire.

    He takes Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, hostage before throwing him to the ground. Then he strikes former President Barack Obama in the back and throws him against a wall.
    Others shown in the video include Mika Brzezinski of MSNBC; former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; former President Bill Clinton; the film producer Harvey Weinstein; and Representative Adam B. Schiff, the California Democrat who as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee is overseeing an impeachment inquiry of Mr. Trump.

    The clip ends with Mr. Trump putting a stake into the head of a person with a CNN logo for a face. Mr. Trump then stands on the altar, admiring his rampage, and smiles.”


    Please Note: The video was submitted by a supporter, and shown at “a pro-Trump group, American Priority, at Trump National Doral Miami.”

    A spokesman for Mr. Trump’s campaign said he knew nothing about the video.
    “That video was not produced by the campaign, and we do not condone violence,” said Tim Murtaugh, the spokesman.


    But yet: “The president said at a rally on Friday that there was an “unholy alliance of corrupt Democrat politicians, deep-state bureaucrats and the fake news media.””

    I am sure that @A_B and @Other Just Saying would agree.

  36. “It also wasn’t a specific threat, or a credible threat, against any individual and there was nothing to suggest the passenger wearing it would be a safety risk for the aircraft.”

    Come on @gary, you’ve got to be kidding me. In these days where everyone is capable of anything why would a shirt like that, so specific and targeted, not raise attention??? If I had been on that flight I would have asked for him to be removed, that I didn’t feel safe. And if they took no action I would ask to be removed.

    If we allow those around us to mock threats, killing, death, and other violent actions then we can expect to continue to see acts of violence. Why do we allow crap like this to happen? This is not exercise of free speech but a blatant attack on everything that defines us.

  37. Per Vincent: Trump said: “unholy alliance of corrupt Democrat politicians”
    –Like Nancy Pelosi that was called out for legal insider trading by 60 Minutes.
    –Like Quid Pro Quo Joe Biden
    –Like Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pushing the Skolkovo process (technology transfers) as part of the Russian reset, while the Russians provided tens of millions of dollars to the Clinton Foundation, directly to Bill Clinton through paid speeches by Russian banks, and investments to Clinton associated start-up companies. Transferred technologies from the Skolkovo process were used in the Russian’s new hypersonic jet.
    –Or Schiff who has been accepting large donations from an Ukrainian oligarch who wants military contracts for years.
    “deep-state bureaucrats”
    –Like Comey, who admitted to leaking classified documents on in public testimony on the floor of congress, was referred to the Justice Department for prosecution by the IG Horowitz
    –Like Strock, who was also referred to the Justice Department for lying. He may yet be indicted.
    –Like Mueller, who helped cover for the Boston’s notorious Winter Hill Gang in Boston. Mueller who wrote letters to the parole and pardon boards throughout the 1980s opposing clemency for the four men framed by FBI lies.
    “and the fake news media.”
    –Like the New York Times (NYT) who downplayed the Holocaust, while the Sulzberger Family, then owners of the NYT quietly was helping Jewish associates escape from Germany, who’s main Russia reporter Walter Duranty wrote one puff piece after another about Stalin, while Stalin was starving millions in the Ukraine, and has not supported a Republican candidate for President since Eisenhower, over half a century ago.
    –Like Chuck Todd, Fredo Como, and Stephanopoulos who are basically democratic operatives posing as unbiased press.
    –Like all the surveys that indicate that over 90% of mainstream media vote Democrat.

    Move on, nothing to see here. Vincent is either a useful idiot or just plain stupid. I am leaning towards the later.

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