When a United Airlines passenger accused the carrier of booting her from her first class seat to accommodate Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, it turned out that it wasn’t the first transportation-related incident involving the congresswoman. Multiple reports, made over Jackson Lee’s multi-decade congressional career, suggest the recent event is only part of the story.
The incident that took place this week involves accusations from Jean-Marie Simon, a school teacher who asserts that she paid for the seat that Jackson Lee ended up occupying and that United Airlines gave her first class seat away to the congresswoman intentionally.
While this initially seemed like a singular incident, a report by the Daily Mail suggests it is a pattern of poor transportation-related behavior associated with Jackson Lee, which includes berating flight attendants and requiring her drivers to block traffic during rush hour, at times for hours, while waiting for her.
A 2002 report by the Weekly Standard stated that the Texas Democrat lived only “200 paces” from her office on Capitol Hill, but insisted on being driven between the locations. It also noted an instance where a government vehicle idled in from of her apartment building for 23 minutes, blocking traffic while waiting for her.
In a 2011 report by the Daily Caller, they claimed that Jackson Lee demanded her drivers run red lights and drive on the shoulder of highways, an action that caused an accident on one occasion when the congresswoman demanded that a staffer drive faster and, when they turned too sharply, struck a wall with the vehicle.
Jackson Lee has also reportedly had issues with airlines before, including an incident in 1998 with Continental, which merged with United in 2010, where she berated a flight attendant when her preferred meal wasn’t available.
“Don’t you know who I am?” the congresswoman reportedly stated. “I’m Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee. Where is my seafood meal? I know it was ordered!”
The incident led the Continental government affairs office vice president to contact her, saying that if her behavior did not improve, she would not be able to fly with the airline.
During a flight in 1999, when Jackson Lee exited the plane prior to takeoff to look for her purse, which she misplaced. When the aircraft left the gate without her, she demanded she be allowed back on board.
After being informed that wasn’t possible, based on FAA regulations, Jackson Lee reportedly accused the gate staff of being racist.
Jackson Lee also brought up race during the recent incident on the United flight, stating in a tweet, “Since this was not any fault of mine, the way the individual continued to act appeared to be, upon reflection, because I was an African American woman, seemingly an easy target along with the African American flight attendant who was very, very nice.”
She followed up the tweet , saying, “But in the spirit of this season and out of the sincerity of my heart, if it is perceived that I have anything to do with this, I am kind enough to simply say sorry. But as an African American, I know there are too many examples like this all over the nation.”
Simon claims that race had nothing to do with her reaction, as she wasn’t aware of who ended up in the contested seat until she was able to board with an Economy Plus ticket she received as compensation.