Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee said she was an "easy target" and alleged racism may be behind accusations she received preferential treatment on a United Airlines flight last week.
The Texas congresswoman sent a series of Tweets on Tuesday reposting her statement about the Dec. 18 incident, in which she said she and and a flight attendant, both African Americans, were “seemingly an easy target.” She originally released the statement Friday on Facebook.
“Since this was not any fault of mine, the way the individual continued to act appeared to be, upon reflection, because I was an African American woman, seemingly an easy target along with the African American flight attendant who was very, very nice,” Jackson Lee wrote on Twitter. “This saddens me, especially at this time of year given all of the things we have to work on to help people.”
The controversy erupted after passenger Jean-Marie Simon was informed by a gate attendant that her ticket was not in the system while she was attempting to board a flight bound for Washington D.C. After denying that she canceled her flight, the airline gave her a $500 voucher and reseated her in the Economy Plus section in row 11.
Simon later realized Jackson Lee was sitting in her original first class seat and claimed Jackson Lee received preferential treatment. She alleged that after she complained and snapped a photo of Jackson Lee in her seat, another flight attendant sat next to her and asked if she “was going to be a problem.”
The lawmaker, however, maintained in her statement that she “did nothing wrong” and said she didn’t ask for anything “exceptional or out of the ordinary and received nothing exceptional or out of the ordinary.”
Jackson Lee said she wasn’t directly involved in the incident but saw “a disruption by an individual walking back and forth in the cabin.”
“I could overhear her speaking with a flight attendant (an African American woman),” she said. “I saw the gate agent go to the seat of the individual who was walking back and forth before we took off.”
The lawmaker concluded by apologizing to the woman “if it is perceived that I had anything to do with this.”
“But as an African American, I know there are too many examples like this all over the nation,” she added. “I hope one day, we will accept our collective diversity.”
United Airlines denied preferential treatment and told Fox News that their records showed that Simon canceled her flight from the mobile app after it was delayed for weather.
“As part of the normal pre-boarding process, gate agents began clearing standby and upgrade customers, including the first customer on the waitlist for an upgrade,” the company said in a statement.
Simon denied canceling her ticket. In response to Jackson Lee’s statement, Simon told the Houston Chronicle that she “had no idea who was in my seat when I complained at the gate that my seat had been given to someone else.”
“There is no way you can see who is in a seat from inside the terminal,” she added.