Adam Saleh, the YouTube "star" who says he was removed from a Delta flight for speaking Arabic, has not spoken to the press since arriving in NYC from London Wednesday. The video Saleh recorded documenting his removal from the flight immediately went viral, but there is still disagreement about what preceded the video. Saleh, who has a history of making prank videos, insists he was removed from the plane at Heathrow because white passengers were uncomfortable hearing him speak Arabic.
Thank you for all your support pic.twitter.com/ukQ4EGVQ6r
— Adam Saleh (@omgAdamSaleh) December 22, 2016
In an interview with the NY Times before his flight departed from Heathrow, Saleh said, "The only thing I can say is, I would never film a phone video. That’s when it’s really serious, and I must film." The Times also sent a reporter to interview passengers who arrived at JFK on the flight Saleh and his friend, Slim Albaher, were removed from. According to the Times, "passengers who were on the plane when it landed in New York corroborated the men’s story."
Mr. Saleh said he had just spoken to his mother on the phone, in Arabic, to tell her when his flight would land. After the call, he and Mr. Albaher continued to speak briefly in Arabic until they were interrupted by a woman in front of them, who asked them to speak English because they were making her uncomfortable.
They did not respond aggressively, Mr. Saleh said, but told her that they were speaking Arabic and asked whether she had ever heard another language. Then, Mr. Saleh said, a man with a British accent who appeared to be traveling with the woman swore at them and said they should be “chucked” off the plane.
“At this point, me and Slim looked at each other,” Mr. Saleh said in the interview. “We didn’t know what to do. We felt like we were terrorists.”
The situation escalated, Mr. Saleh said, and other passengers joined in asking that Mr. Saleh and Mr. Albaher be kicked off the plane. Some of them mentioned Monday’s terrorist attack in Berlin, he said. After the disturbance continued for what Mr. Saleh said was about seven minutes, the captain was summoned, and he asked that the two men leave the plane with their baggage.
Here's video of Saleh's ejection, followed by further explanation from Saleh and Albaher, who says, "People keep using the fact that we're pranksters against us. I feel like this is the boy who cried wolf":
Delta has not apologized for removing Saleh, who was rebooked on a later flight to NYC. The airline has issued a new statement on the incident:
Upon landing the crew was debriefed and multiple passenger statements collected. Based on the information collected to date, it appears the customers who were removed sought to disrupt the cabin with provocative behavior, including shouting. This type of conduct is not welcome on any Delta flight. While one, according to media reports, is a known prankster who was video recorded and encouraged by his traveling companion, what is paramount to Delta is the safety and comfort of our passengers and employees. It is clear these individuals sought to violate that priority.
So far no other passenger has come forward with video documentation showing what preceded Saleh and Albaher's ejection from the flight. But luckily former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee has weighed in:
Thnx @delta for removing obnoxious prankster;no matter the language, being rude & loud isn't funny.Wanna be jerk? Charter a flight!
— Gov. Mike Huckabee (@GovMikeHuckabee) December 22, 2016