A North Carolina man has pleaded guilty to a federal misdemeanor charge after authorities say he grabbed a Muslim woman's hijab on a Southwest Airlines flight in December and pulled it off.

Federal authorities say 37-year-old Gill Parker Payne, of Gastonia, North Carolina, entered the plea Friday. He was charged with using force or threat of force to obstruct a Muslim woman in the free exercise of her religious beliefs.

The two were on a Dec. 11 flight from Chicago to Albuquerque when the confrontation happened.

Authorities say Payne approached the woman, who was sitting several rows in front of him, and told her to take off her hijab — an Islamic-style headscarf — saying, "This is America!" He then removed the hijab from her head.