On Sunday, a paying United Airlines customer was brutalized by Chicago Aviation Security Officers while being forced off an overbooked plane. United’s CEO has since placed blame for the ugly incident squarely on the customer.
The 69-year-old man’s background is obviously irrelevant to how he was treated — it’s not as though United or the Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA) ran a background check before deciding to get physical with him. Nonetheless, on Thursday, the Louisville Courier-Journal sullied the passenger’s reputation in a victim-smearing piece entitled, “David Dao, passenger removed from United flight, a doctor with troubled past.”
Detailing the criminal records of victims of police brutality — especially in cases where the victims are minorities — is a tactic commonly used to explain away police misconduct.
The Courier-Journal piece, citing Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure documents, discusses how Dao was convicted of felonies after an undercover investigation revealed “he was involved in fraudulent prescriptions for controlled substances.”
“The Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure permitted Dao to resume practicing medicine in 2015 under certain conditions,” the Courier-Journal reports.
The piece doesn’t contain Dao’s side of the story, though the author, Morgan Watkins indicated on Twitter on Monday that she was trying to reach him.
— Morgan Watkins (@morganwatkins26) April 10, 2017
While the piece sullies Dao, it doesn’t delve into the background of the CDA or Chicago Police Department (CPD). CDA officers were reportedly the only officers on the plane, but the CPD nonetheless saw fit to release a statement describing Dao as “irate” and “yelling.” The CPD’s statement attributes no blame to officers or the airline for the man’s injuries.
The Courier-Journal piece doesn’t mention that in the 10-year stretch between 2004 and 2014, the CPD paid out more than $500 million in brutality settlements and legal fees. Nor does it attempt to explain why the CDA placed one officer who was involved in the Dao incident on leave but not the other two who can be seen manhandling him in videos.
It also doesn’t attempt to explain the shocking degree of force used by CDA agents. An industry expert who spoke to the Chicago Sun-Times, Robert Mann Jr., said he’s “never seen a passenger forcibly removed unless it involved an unruly passenger of some sort.”
Also omitted is any discussion of United’s overbooking policy that created the problem in the first place.
The New York Post ran a piece similar to the Courier-Journal’s under the headline, “Doctor dragged off flight was convicted of trading drugs for sex.” The Post also doesn’t contain Dao’s side of the story or delve into the background of the CPD, CDA, or United.
A Washington, D.C.-based TV station is teasing a hit piece on Dao as well: