An unidentified passenger wearing a T-shirt indicating that journalists should be lynched was allowed to fly cross-country on a United Airlines flight despite a complaint from a fellow traveler who considered the message a death threat.
The male passenger’s shirt read: “Rope. Tree. Journalist. Some assembly required.”
The incident occurred at the same time as a pro-Donald Trump conference at the president’s Doral golf resort in Florida that included an incendiary fictional video attacking journalists. It graphically depicted a fake “president” stabbing and shooting members of the media and political opponents in a bloody rampage in the “Church of Fake News.”
The United incident was first reported in a tweet by journalist Jessica Sidman, the food editor of The Washingtonian magazine, who included a photo of the passenger wearing the shirt. She said her brother, who was also traveling on the Los Angeles-to-Boston flight Friday, complained to a flight attendant as he boarded that he didn’t want one passenger threatening the life of other passengers.
He told her he didn’t want one passenger threatening to kill other passengers.— Jessica Sidman (@jsidman) October 11, 2019
He told her @United should do the right thing. She went to talk to the captain.— Jessica Sidman (@jsidman) October 11, 2019
Sidman’s brother was escorted off the plane by a United supervisor, who explained there was nothing United could do about the offensive message. Sidman’s brother turned down an offer of an alternative flight. Nothing was said to the other passenger, who wore the shirt throughout the trip, he told his sister.
Sidman’s brother told CNBC in an email: “I relayed that the shirt was not just offensive, it was threatening the lives of other passengers.” He didn’t want his identity revealed because he feared threats, the network reported. Forbes noted that he has worked in journalism.
He told Forbes in an email that he didn’t accept an alternative flight because “I didn’t want this to be about United appeasing me, a single customer. I wanted the airline I flew not to sanction the threatening of murder of any group.”
United did not respond to phone calls from HuffPost to comment on the situation. The airline was criticized two years ago when it kicked two girls off a flight traveling on a company pass for wearing leggings.
The controversial T-shirts have been sold at least since 2016 and were on sale outside the Republican National Convention that summer in Cleveland.
Twitter users erupted over the United incident. One noted that had the shirt said “Rope. Tree. United pilots,” the response likely would have been different.
As a United Premier 1K customer, this is upsetting. Had I seen it, in my line of work, I would have also considered it a threat. Replace the word "journalist" with any number of vulnerable groups and it would not be ok. C'mon, @United. You are better than this.— Christian Picciolini (@cpicciolini) October 12, 2019
@united you did the absolute wrong thing here. United's responsibility is to create a safe environment. That shirt is a threat. The passenger should've been given the option of changing his shirt or staying. United could've given him a t-shirt to wear...but, this was wrong— Jack Hutton (@jackhutton) October 12, 2019
Remember when girls were kicked off a flight for wearing leggings? @united leggings are offensive but not threats of murder? Airlines should not allow these types of violent slogans or images. No other passenger would get away with that but a white man.https://t.co/tQ6DYJNx2J— Eileen Bromley (@EileenBromley1) October 12, 2019
Omg.— Tara Setmayer (@TaraSetmayer) October 12, 2019
This is out of control.
Good God, the airlines have kicked young women off planes for what the airline considered "revealing" clothes. Yet they allow this unchecked? Double standards all around. Shame on you United.— Kathy 🇨🇦🏳️🌈 (@scarletkate) October 12, 2019
Shame on @united for not finding a better solution. What if shirt said, "Rope. Tree. United Pilots....." What then?— Jeff Nianick (@jnianick) October 11, 2019
@united you need to review your policy about how to handle a threat. What’s the difference between a T-shirt and the man holding a sign that said the same? I’m horrified you let him stay.— Regan Fletcher Stephens (@ReganStephens) October 12, 2019
Even in this era of security this passenger was allowed on a flight. United Airlines is fine with passengers who broadcast death threats @united— IntheDeepEnd (@CarolynPure) October 11, 2019
Trump’s America... Another unpatriotic Trump voter who does not believe in freedom of the press.— Lori (@ArizonaActivist) October 13, 2019
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This article originally appeared on HuffPost.