DEBUNKED

No, airline staff did not stop a Capitol rioter from boarding a plane

"People who broke into the Capitol on Wednesday [Editor’s note: January 6] are now learning they are on No-Fly lists pending the full investigation. They are not happy about this,” reads the caption of several posts that have been circulating on social media.
"People who broke into the Capitol on Wednesday [Editor’s note: January 6] are now learning they are on No-Fly lists pending the full investigation. They are not happy about this,” reads the caption of several posts that have been circulating on social media. © Observers
Text by: Observers team
5 min

Facebook and Twitter users have been widely circulating a video they claim shows airline staff stopping a man from boarding a plane because he took part in the insurrection at the United States Capitol on January 6. But the real story behind the video, which first appeared on TikTok on January 10, shows the man was asked to disembark from the Charlotte to Denver flight because he refused to wear a mask. 

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This 18-second video shows a visibly distressed man complaining that he wasn’t allowed to take his flight. 

"This is what they do to us! They kicked me off the plane!” says a man, using obscenities and visibly distressed. 

First, another passenger and then one of the airline crew seems to try to calm him down. 

The video was widely shared online by people who linked this incident with the deadly assault carried out by Donald Trump’s supporters on the US Capitol on January 6.

On January 10, this video was posted on Twitter with the caption: "People who broke into the Capitol Wednesday [Editor’s note: January 6] are now learning they are on No-Fly lists pending the full investigation. They are not happy about this.”

The post has since been retweeted about 107,000 times. However, the Twitter user posted an update in a second tweet shared on January 12, explaining that the story he had originally shared wasn’t factually accurate. 

Screengrab
Screengrab © Twitter

But that didn’t stop the false version of events from spreading online. Multiple Facebook users shared the same video, copying the caption of the first tweet word for word. One of those posts from January 11 garnered more than 400,000 views.

 

Screengrab
Screengrab © Facebook

 

The false information was also circulating in both Portuguese and French.

Why is it false? 

The name of the user who first posted it (@heartlessputa) appears on the footage, next to the logo of the TikTok application. The username has since been changed. We looked at this account to find the original video posted here and immediately noticed that the caption is different from the caption on the posts that circulated on Facebook and Twitter. It says the man was prevented from boarding… for having refused to wear a mask. 

 

Screengrab
Screengrab © TikTok

 

Fact checkers at USA TODAY reported that the person who posted the video responded the next day to the many rumours about her post. She said that she didn’t know why the man wasn’t allowed to take his flight. But she added that the incident took place in Charlotte, North Carolina, and not in Washington DC, where the Capitol is located. 

Derek Walls, a spokesperson for American Airlines, confirmed to USA TODAY that the passenger in question was asked to disembark from his flight to Denver because he refused to wear a mask. USA TODAY reported that similar events had taken place at the airport in Washington DC on flights run by both American Airlines and Delta Air Lines. 

Two other videos posted on TikTok on January 9 (check them out here and here) showing women being stopped at an airport were also wrongly associated with the violence at the Capitol.

 

Screengrab of a post sharing these videos with the hashtag #capitolriots.
Screengrab of a post sharing these videos with the hashtag #capitolriots. © Twitter

 

Once again, the person who shared these videos posted an update shortly after her original post, explaining that the videos were actually filmed in Fort Lauderdale, Florida in November 2020 and, thus, don’t have anything to do with the violence at the Capitol.

Were Capitol rioters really put on a "no-fly list"?

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) was looking into whether or not Capitol rioters should be added to the no-fly list it runs along with the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), according to an article posted by the Associated Press on January 16.  

The FBI was also considering putting some of those who attacked the Capitol on the no-fly list, said Steven D'Antuono, Assistant Director in Charge of FBI Washington Field Office.