Progressive turned conservative influencer Brandon Straka was temporarily banned Thursday from flying with American Airlines after a disagreement over the company’s mandatory in-flight face-covering policy.
The ban came just one day after Straka was removed from his scheduled flight to Dallas during the boarding process at LaGuardia Airport for refusing airline employee requests to don the required personal protective equipment while onboard the aircraft.
The founder of the #WalkAway campaign, a social movement aimed at giving voice to voters departing the Democratic Party, the influencer was bound for Oklahoma in preparation for President Donald Trump’s upcoming Tulsa campaign rally at the time.
Video taken during and after the ordeal by Straka and New York Times reporter Astead Herndon, who was coincidentally seated nearby, has since gone viral.
“I was just removed from my flight for not wearing a mask,” Straka wrote on Twitter. “1st time this has happened. Not a federal law. @AmericanAir staff standing over me telling me it’s THE LAW. So much for ‘please respect those who can not wear a mask’. When I pointed out this wasn’t a law I was removed.”
“AFTER removing me flight manager says- they made a mistake. They had no right to ask you that,” he added.
The influencer also said he had been asked to provide proof of a medical condition exempting him from the mask mandate, an action that allegedly violated the airline’s own policy.
— Steadman™ (@AsteadWesley) June 17, 2020
Entire episode is filmed. @AmericanAir
AFTER removing me flight manager says- they made a mistake. They had no right to ask you that.
— Brandon Straka (@BrandonStraka) June 17, 2020
American Airlines neither confirmed nor denied Straka’s claim but did “thoroughly review” the incident and found that the influencer had “failed to comply with our stated policy and crewmember instructions,” according to an official statement received by The Western Journal.
On Monday, the airline had strengthened its previous mask policy, promising in an official news release that company employees would be delivering more frequent policy reminders before and during flights and engaging in stricter enforcement.
Straka will remain barred from flying with American until its face mask policy is lifted.
His removal and subsequent ban did not come without controversy, however, prompting many left-leaning figures on social media to discuss the unwillingness of some conservatives to engage with public health policy and safety measures amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Brandon Straka, the man kicked off an @AmericanAir flight for refusing to wear a mask, I believe did this as a PR stunt. He’s a liar, desperately seeking attention & as @Toure put it, “a performance artist.” He tried to disrupt @Politicon with his antics!https://t.co/l2cTh6jhWs
— AprilDRyan (@AprilDRyan) June 18, 2020
Sigh. Really? https://t.co/PxCFlle9JE
— George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) June 19, 2020
According to a subsequent tweet from Straka, widespread coverage of the incident — which included headlines highlighting the influencer’s support for Trump as relevant to the story — also resulted in a brief influx of hate-mail from left-wing figures, which included death threats.
The aggressive public outcry, however, was unsurprising, Straka told The Western Journal in a Friday interview, suggesting controversy surrounding the incident had exposed a “complete and total hypocrisy” in the American left’s response to public policy non-compliance.
“There’s an intentional aspect to this,” Straka said, “of exposing the complete and total hypocrisy of the policies and the rules, and where we bend the rules and we bend the policies.”
He went on to point out that many left-wing establishment figures had been all but silent regarding the potential coronavirus threat associated with large-scale protests and riots nationwide following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, with some even claiming the increased risk was justifiable in the pursuit of social justice.
— Brandon Straka (@BrandonStraka) June 17, 2020
The past 24 hrs has proven conclusively to me what I already knew. I have been inundated with death threats, attacks on social media & email. None of these ppl have asked if I there’s a reason why I couldn’t wear the mask. They are just another arm of the left’s rageful mob.
— Brandon Straka (@BrandonStraka) June 18, 2020
After months of socially and economically devastating nationwide shutdown orders, Democratic New York City Council Health Committee Chairman Mark Levine, for instance, said on June 3 that a second wave of COVID-19 cases resulting from the protests should be blamed not on the protesters who failed to follow public health guidelines, but on “racism” itself.
“The same media and the same politicians who have been telling us for months that it is our duty and our obligation and that we are selfish if we do not stay at home, stay socially distanced, wear a mask everywhere we go, financially bankrupt ourselves, become unemployed, forego our paychecks, forego our businesses — that we must comply with all these orders,” Straka said.
“These very same politicians and these very same media sources have been cheering and applauding as thousands and thousands of protesters across the country have gathered to quote-unquote ‘fight racism.’ In fact, so much so that they’ve even evaded reporting on stories about lootings, about arson, about burning buildings to the ground, about violence, about killing. People have been killed.”
“I’m getting a little confused where we draw the line,” he said.
“Because I got thrown off an airplane and it’s become a national news story that I’m now like a national pariah because I didn’t wear a mask on an airplane. But if you’re fighting racism, no one’s allowed to even ask any questions. And there are no rules.”
The Western Journal’s Kayla Kunkel contributed to this report.
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