To some, it may appear America has lost its collective mind over the United Airlines incident in which a paying passenger was dragged off a plane Sunday – and now a Hollywood actor is even blaming President Donald Trump for the airline's actions.
Before a flight from Chicago to Louisville, Kentucky, four passengers were asked to give up their seats to make room for United staffers. When the airline asked for volunteers and offered $800 in incentives, nobody would leave the plane. That's when passengers were chosen at random. Three left without protest, but one man refused and became "belligerent," according to the airline. The fourth passenger, David Dao, a doctor from Elizabethtown, Kentucky, was pulled from his seat and taken off the plane.
Videos of the incident quickly circulated online:
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Now "Star Trek" and "Harold and Kumar" actor John Cho is faulting Trump. Cho has been a major supporter of former President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
Cho tweeted Monday: "It's hard not to see a connection between the environment Trump has created and what happened on that @United flight."
The Twitterverse immediately reacted to Cho's tweet blaming the president:
- "So Trump is responsible for the actions of a United Airlines decision and the actions of a Chicago (run by Democrats) police officer? RLY?" - Bob Owens
- "Ummm not seeing a connection. However this is the dumbest tweet I've seen today." - Proud Trumpservative
- "Wow, that's a leap." - Colin Thomas
- "I hope you stretched before trying to reach so hard on this tweet." - Christie
- "That's completely asinine dude. C'mon." - Mike McIntyre
- "It's hard not to see a connection between your tweet and the Internet mocking you." - Jon Gabriel
Meanwhile, following the public outrage, United Airlines is experiencing a public relations nightmare. It has also lost $1 billion in value and is facing a federal investigation by the Department of Transportation.
The incident has even prompted calls for a congressional investigation of the airline's policy, according to Fox News.
On Tuesday, a petition signed by more than 20,000 people called for United CEO Oscar Munoz to resign.
"It's a horrifying mistreatment and abuse and we can't let them get away with it," the petition states.
In a letter to United staff, Munoz called the passenger "disruptive and belligerent." He told employees they had "followed established procedures."
"The situation was unfortunately compounded when one of the passengers we politely asked to deplane refused and it became necessary to contact Chicago aviation security officers to help," Munoz wrote in the letter. "Our employees followed established procedures for dealing with situations like this. While I deeply regret this situation arose, I also emphatically stand behind all of you, and I want to commend you for continuing to go above and beyond to ensure we fly right."
Munoz said crew members approached Dao to ask him to leave, and the man "raised his voice and refused to comply." Each time they asked, he said, "he refused and became more and more disruptive and belligerent."
He said members of the crew "were left with no choice but to call Chicago aviation security officers to assist in removing the customer from the flight," and, the man "continued to resist – running back on to the aircraft in defiance of both our crew and security officials."
Police said Dao became "irate" after he was asked to give up his seat, and he "fell" when officers "attempted to carry the individual off the flight. ... His head subsequently struck an armrest causing injuries to his face."
Munoz released the following statement to the media: "This is an upsetting event to all of us here at United. I apologize for having to reaccommodate these customers. Our team is moving with a sense of urgency to work with the authorities and conduct our own detailed review of what happened."
The U.K. Daily Mail published a report Tuesday claiming Dao is a "felon who traded prescription drugs for secret gay sex with a patient half his age and took them himself." The paper also said "he needed anger management, was 'not forthright' and had control issues," according to a psychiatrist.
In a letter to Munoz, Rep. Lloyd Smucker, R-Pa., a House Transportation Committee member, said United should be embarrassed for forcibly removing Dao.
"In the video, the passenger was neither unruly nor aggressive towards authorities," Smucker wrote. "United Airlines and the Chicago Department of Aviation should be ashamed and embarrassed for both their actions and their response to this incident. It's insulting to these passengers, and others who travel frequently, to call this assault a 're-accommodation' and to have the audacity to say it's 'upsetting to those at United.'"
Munoz has apologized and promised a "thorough review" of the situation and the airline policies will be conducted. Results of the review are expected to be shared before April 30.
"The truly horrific event that occurred on this flight has elicited many responses from all of us: outrage, anger, disappointment," Munoz said Tuesday. "I share all of those sentiments, and one above all: my deepest apologies for what happened. Like you, I continue to be disturbed by what happened on this flight and I deeply apologize to the customer forcibly removed and to all the customers aboard. No one should ever be mistreated this way."
He continued, "I want you to know that we take full responsibility and we will work to make it right."
Talk-radio king Rush Limbaugh cautioned the public not to jump to conclusions and blame the flight crew based only on the short video clips.
"If you’re belligerent, if you’re abusive to fellow passengers or flight crew members, they get you out of there," Limbaugh said. "And that's what happened to this guy. He snuck back in there somehow with the four United employees who were going to take the seats of the four people who were asked to leave, and nobody did, so they were randomly chosen. And, by the way, on that score, these are flight attendants and others who had to be in Louisville so that a scheduled United flight the next day could fly. Without a crew, they’d have to ground that airplane or cancel that flight. That’s a lot of money."
As for Munoz and the airline's PR nightmare, Limbaugh offered a suggestion.
"If I were the United Airlines CEO, if I was Oscar Munoz, you know what I'd do?" he asked, laughing. "I'd run an ad and I would use this video, and I would say: 'Our planes are so good and our flights are so popular, we have to drag people off of 'em.'"