Delta is defending its choice to boot YouTube prankster Adam Saleh from a flight Wednesday morning. Saleh alleges that he and Slim Albaher, a friend and another YouTube semi-celebrity, were thrown off the plane for speaking Arabic. The airline is claiming that according to witness statements, the two “sought to disrupt the cabin with provocative behavior, including shouting.”
As my colleague Gabrielle Bluestone noted yesterday, Saleh has made several hoax videos that have gone viral, including one just last week where he pretended to stow away on a different airline, and an infamous one in 2014 that purported to show the NYPD harassing them when they were in more traditional shalwar kameez-style tunics and kaffiyehs. They later admitted the video was a “dramatization,” which is to say fake.
Saleh contends that he and Albaher were abruptly booted from the flight after he briefly spoke Arabic to his mother on the phone and to Albaher, and that several white passengers said they were “uncomfortable.”
Delta’s full statement, via CBS, calls Saleh a “known prankster” and notes he was being filmed by Albaher throughout:
“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.”
But he and Albaher are adamantly stating that this one isn’t a hoax, in a new video released Wednesday night with more footage of the incident. Both men ruefully said the situation feels like “the boy who cried wolf,” and that they recorded the incident once they realized they were getting kicked off the plane.
In new footage, Saleh accuses the flight attendant of discrimination saying, “It’s six white people against us bearded men,” and says one of the other passengers cursed at him. Saleh is filmed in a hallway outside the plane having an extended back-and-forth with a Delta official, who gestures at his camera, telling him, “You brought attention upon yourself. You obviously were doing it for the benefit of [inaudible]... I need you to calm down.”
“I’m as calm as I can be,” Saleh responds.
“You can clearly see it is as real as it gets,” Saleh said in their video statement, in which both men are glumly sitting on a couch back in New York. “You see it. It may be the boy who cried wolf, but you can see it. It was wrong.”