A video that shows an agitated man in an airport terminal, complaining that he had been kicked off a plane and insulted, has now been viewed more than 20 million times on Twitter.
Why has the 18-second video gone so viral? In part because someone on Twitter — not the person who actually recorded the video — added a caption that suggested that the man had been put on a no-fly list for being part of the insurrection at the US Capitol.
“People who broke into the Capitol Wednesday are now learning they are on No-Fly lists pending the full investigation. They are not happy about this,” the tweeter, who goes by the handle @RayRedacted, said in the caption.
Facts First: The Twitter caption was inaccurate: The airport incident was not about the Capitol insurrection. Rather, the man in the video had been asked to get off a Charlotte-to-Denver flight for refusing to comply with American Airlines’ mandatory mask policy, airline spokesman Curtis Blessing told CNN.
“On Friday, Jan. 8, a customer was asked to deplane flight 1754 at Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT) for refusing to comply with our mandatory face covering policy. The customer complied with requests to deplane, and the flight departed at 7:42 p.m. EST for Denver International Airport (DEN),” Blessing said in an email.
After the mask incident, Blessing said, the man was put on American Airlines’ own refusal list, essentially a no-fly list specific to that one airline, pending further investigation. But there is no basis for the suggestion he was ever on a government no-fly list — in which case it would have been highly unlikely that he would have been able to board a plane at all — or prohibited from flying for any reason connected to the Capitol insurrection.
The video was originally posted on the social media app TikTok by Tania Domínguez, who told CNN she was in the Charlotte airport awaiting a different flight. Her own caption said: “Homeboy had a full toddler level meltdown bc he was told to wear a mask.” (She later said in the TikTok comments thread attached to her video that she wasn’t certain that the incident was about masks. But her initial instinct was proved correct.)
The video shows the man walking in the terminal with a face covering over his chin, rather than over his nose and mouth. He sounds emotional as he yells about having been kicked off a plane and having supposedly been victimized by unnamed people he claimed wanted to ruin his life.
CNN could not get in touch with the man, whose name has not been made public.
After CNN reported on Twitter on Tuesday that the @RayRedacted tweet incorrectly suggested the incident was about the Capitol insurrection, @RayRedacted tweeted a correction and said, “I was initially given incorrect information.” As of 3:50 p.m. on Tuesday, the correction tweet had 20 retweets — versus more than 107,000 retweets on the inaccurate initial tweet, which remained online.
Not the only one
This Charlotte video was not the only airport video to go viral with a false caption in the wake of the Capitol insurrection. Videos of an arrest incident at Florida’s Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, for example, were widely shared with labels claiming that they too were related to the insurrection and a “#NoFlyList” — but as the Tampa Bay Times pointed out, the videos were actually filmed two months ago.
Congressional Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, have called for participants in the Capitol insurrection to be put on the government no-fly list. But it is unclear what, if any, action is being taken. The office of House Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat who last week asked for the FBI and the Transportation Security Administration to add all identified Capitol rioters to the federal no-fly list, said Monday that it had received no update on whether the agencies have done so.
TSA said in a statement Monday that it is on “high alert” following the Capitol incident and “travelers will notice additional law enforcement and canine presence at the three Washington, D.C.-area airports.”