You’ll find the story all over the web, and all retellings of it have a common theme. A man, described variously as “belligerent” (Washington Post), “out-of-control” (The Root), and “disruptive” (Los Angeles Times), was ejected from a United Airlines flight bound from Shanghai to Newark on Sunday. But another detail appears in the headlines of these and other stories that appears to be totally unrelated to the man’s behavior and/or the reasons for his removal: Namely, he was wearing a red “Make America Great Again” hat.
In fact, the reason the passenger was booted remains unclear, although a widely circulated video shot by another passenger has fueled speculation that it was over objections to the hat. The clip appears below, and it a woman in crutches can be plainly seen telling the man he is “selfish.”
But the likely explanation for her comment is not that the man voted for Donald Trump but because, as another passenger named Clark Gredoña explains in a Facebook post, the unruly man had been denied an upgrade and claimed he was “entitled to all three seats next to him even though they’re assigned to somebody else.”
A spokesman for United, which has received its share of bad press in recent weeks, told the L.A. Times that when the man refused initially to leave voluntarily, “local law enforcement was called to assist and the customer eventually left the aircraft on his own accord.”
That spokesman, Jonathan Guerin, is further quoted as saying:
We’re grateful for the patience shown by our customers who endured the disruptive behavior of this passenger, as well as the exceptional poise and professionalism of our flight crew.
As for the relevance of the hat, which is referred to in the headline and lede of most of these stories? I suspect that any of the authors would be hard-pressed to explain its inclusion to a Journalism 101 class, though the more forthright among them would probably offer up an explanation along the lines of “Because Donald Trump” or something equally logical.