In yet another example of how cellphones and social media create viral media moments, the video of a passenger being dragged off a United Airlines flight Sunday turned the luckless passenger into a kind of TV star. It was the perfect Monday-morning news story, a welcome contrast for harried TV news producers looking to provide information other than discussions about President Trump’s Syrian airstrikes and the Republican trick confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch.
The cellphone camera captured drama showed security personnel dragging the passenger off the United flight, the sight of his limp body provoking some halfhearted, “Aw, come on!” protests from passengers — that’s the 21st century equivalent of the more appropriate scold: “For shame!” The subtle co-star in this now-famous scene is the woman who can heard heard yelling, “Oh my God!” over and over; she sets the tone for how we are to react when viewing the video.
Which is not how some have reacted. On Monday night, Bill O’Reilly played the scene on The O’Reilly Factor and laughed. “I know I shouldn’t be laughing, but it’s so bizarre,” said O’Reilly, who probably hasn’t seen coach seating since 1980. Because this is Fox News, I would not be at all surprised if the channel is hard at work doing some aggressive reporting to try to find some reason the passenger is actually to blame for the incident.
To be fair, O’Reilly wasn’t alone in finding something giggle-able about the scene. Some members of Jimmy Kimmel’s audience also laughed when the host played the tape on his show. “Interesting to hear some people laughing,” a dismayed Kimmel said. Kimmel had the story to himself — Colbert, Fallon, and Meyers are doing reruns this week — and he made the most of it, zeroing in on the statement issued by United CEO Oscar Munez, who apologized for “having to re-accommodate these customers” — which Kimmel characterized as “sanitized, say-nothing, take-no-responsibility, corporate BS-speak. I don’t know how the guy who wrote that didn’t vomit when he typed it out.”
Remember the airline’s old slogan, “Fly the friendly skies of United”? It is now to be replaced by Kimmel’s sketch suggestion, which featured a smiling flight attendant in a United uniform cooing, “United Airlines: F*** You.”
Jimmy Kimmel Live airs weeknights at 11:35 p.m. on ABC. The O’Reilly Factor airs weeknights at 8 p.m. on Fox News.