A prolonged, intrusive search of a 96-year-old woman at Dulles International Airport near Washington, D.C., has prompted outrage from many of the more than 9 million people who have viewed the May 15 video.
The video was posted to Facebook by Jeanne Clarkson of Anderson, Indiana.
The video shows two TSA staffers searching Clarkson’s mother, who was in a wheelchair. With some effort, she removes her jacket as instructed. She is then patted down over all parts of her body. She is told to adjust herself in her wheelchair so TSA agents can check underneath her.
As the video rolls on, several comments can be heard.
“What the hell do you think she’s going to do? Set off a shoe bomb?” Clarkson said.
“This is uncalled for….She’s 96-years-old, she’s not Gumby,” an unidentified man added.
Clarkson said that she, her mother and another traveler were all in wheelchairs, but only her mother was “subjected to this prolonged, repetitive search.”
“I am my mother’s legal guardian and responsible for her well-being. I went through security. When I saw that they had pulled Mother aside to search her. I tried asking why. They ignored me,” Clarkson posted. “That upset me so I began videoing what they were doing to document my complaint that I intended to file. I have traveled extensively and never seen anything like this. Mother had traveled with me before and never been groped like that!”
Anger also spewed forth on social media.
Video of TSA agents searching 96-year-old woman in wheelchair sparks outrage https://t.co/nYuSZdS8iw They need to be fired….jackasses
— Dave (@sandysman1) June 9, 2018
— newyorknewart (@newyorknewart) June 9, 2018
This is easy to understand, TSA employees not among the best and brightest are not otherwise employable – the do not understrand the difference between the letter and spirit of the law – a bomb dog would've been less invasivehttps://t.co/2Vz4hLnMhE
— WFM Comments (@MacOne1948) June 9, 2018
Speaking about the incident weeks later, Clarkson remained angry.
“I was just shocked. I’ve traveled with her before, I’ve been in a wheelchair myself unable to walk through the machines and I’ve never had that kind of a pat-down ever. I was just shocked. I couldn’t believe they were doing this to my 96-year-old mother,” she said, according to CBS.
“It was just shock, and frustration because they would not talk to me. I felt helpless,” she said. “It was just like, how can they get away with this?”
Clarkson said the incident has had a very serious negative impact on her mother.
“She didn’t know what to say. She does not want to fly again ever. She didn’t know what they were looking for. She was scared,” Clarkson said. “She was just following directions. She said she didn’t know what to do.”
Clarkson said that TSA never contacted the family.
A TSA spokeswoman said its agents were doing their jobs.
“TSA is committed to ensuring the security of travelers, while treating all passengers with dignity and respect,” TSA spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein said, according to The Washington Post.
“In this instance, the TSA officer provided advisements during the pat-down and was extremely polite. The passenger was very cooperative and gave no indication that she was agitated or in discomfort. She received a pat-down and was cleared for her flight,” Farbstein said.
Outrage over the incident reached the point where Washington Dulles Airport put a comment on its Facebook page that the TSA was responsible for passenger screening.
“Many of you have reached out to us to express concern over a video of a security screening taking place at Dulles International Airport. Security screening at our checkpoints is directed and conducted by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). We have shared customer comments with the TSA for their immediate review and appropriate action,” the airport’s post read.
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