The gay founder of a group that attempts to convince Democrats to support Donald Trump was removed from a plane after refusing to wear a face mask.
Brandon Straka — who founded the #WalkAway campaign, which encourages Democrats to abandon the party’s “divisive tenets” and instead support Republican candidates — was filmed arguing with flight attendants after boarding an American Airlines flight at LaGuardia airport on Wednesday.
In video of the encounter, the conservative activist tells flight attendants that they are asking him “to do something that’s not a law” after they request he wear a mask.
One of the attendants tells Straka that wearing masks is the “procedure American Airlines follows.”
Federal law does not currently mandate the wearing of face masks, but a number of airlines have implemented requirements that passengers wear face coverings in order to fly.
American Airlines, Delta, and United have also announced passengers might be banned from flying should they not wear masks, ABC News reports.
Straka was ultimately removed the flight, and reportedly said he doesn’t “like wearing masks” as he left the plane.
New York Times reporter Astead W. Herndon was on Straka’s flight and tweeted about the incident as it occured, writing, “there is currently a mutiny on my flight to tulsa (via dallas) because a guy is refusing to wear a mask and the flight can’t take off.”
He said that when Straka was eventually removed, people on the plane “applauded.”
Herndon also shared video of Straka arguing with a flight attendant. In the video, Straka tells the attendant that he has a medical condition which prevents him from wearing a mask.
The flight attendant asked if Straka had paperwork supporting his condition, and Herndon said that Straka told the attendant “no.”
Herndon said that the flight was heading to Tulsa, Okla., via Dallas. Donald Trump is holding a campaign rally in Tulsa on Saturday, June 20. Straka tweeted earlier this week that he had tickets for the rally.
After he was removed from the flight, Straka took to social media to criticize American Airlines for its flight attendants’ decision.
“I was just removed from my flight for not wearing a mask. 1st time this has happened. Not a federal law,” Straka tweeted. “@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.”
Straka also posted a video to Periscope calling the decision “insane.”
“This is insane. Absolutely insane,” he said. “We don’t have a choice anymore.”
Claiming that he filmed the entire incident, Straka said flight attendants told him it was the “law” that he had to wear a mask, before revising it to say it was airline policy that he had to wear a mask.
He also claimed that a “flight manager” apologized to him after he was removed from the plane, and said the flight attendants “didn’t have the right” to remove him or ask about his medical condition preventing him from wearing a mask.
Straka told ABC News that he was later booked onto another flight, and was able to fly without a mask.
American Airlines issued a statement confirming that Straka had been removed from the plane after he “declined to wear a face covering.”
“After he refused to comply with the instructions provided by the flight crew, our team members asked him to deplane,” American Airlines said. “He deplaned and the flight departed the gate four minutes late at 12:34pm ET.”
The airline added: “Mr. Straka stated to our airport team members that he would comply with our policies, and was rebooked on a later flight. Our team is reviewing this incident, and we are reaching out to Mr. Straka to get more information.”
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Rhuaridh Marr is Metro Weekly's managing editor. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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