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Several decades worth of coverage of Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee suggests she's behaved badly on planes – and on automobiles – before this week's incident.
The latest airplane drama came this week when a United Airlines passenger said she was booted from her first class seat to accommodate the Texas Democrat, who shot back by saying the only reason the woman complained was because Jackson Lee is black.
But previous reports show the House member, who was elected in 1994, has had a history of transportation drama, including berating flight attendants on first class flights and making her Congressional staff drive her one block, while waiting on her for hours and disrupting traffic.
She's been documented calling her employees 'you stupid motherf***er,' while referring to herself as Congressional royalty.
'You don't understand. I am a queen, and I demand to be treated like a queen,' she was quoted saying in 1998, three years into her nearly 23-year tenure on Capitol Hill.
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee has had a history of bad behavior on airplanes - and in automobiles - even before this week's row with United, when the Democratic lawmaker was given another passenger's first class seat and then suggested the woman complained because of racism
Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, from Texas, said did nothing wrong when she was bumped to a first class seat on a December 18 flight from Houston to Washington, D.C. Jackson Lee, however, has had a history of bad behavior on planes - and in automobiles
She was put in seat 1A, which was originally paid for by a Jean-Marie Simon (left), a schoolteacher from Washington DC, who has accused the airline of evicting her from the seat so they could give it to a member of congress
Representative Jackson Lee wrote on Twitter that she was upset she had to respond to allegations that she'd demanded special treatment,
She said she believes that Simon was so offended because she is an African American woman, and said that if it's perceived she did anything wrong she wants to apologize in the spirit of the holiday season
Jackson Lee was put in seat 1A, which was originally paid for by a Jean-Marie Simon, a schoolteacher from Washington DC, who has accused the airline of evicting her from the seat so they could give it to a member of congress.
The congresswoman said in a statement Tuesday that she is upset she has to respond to allegations that she demanded special treatment.
'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,' the 67-year-old Democrat tweeted Tuesday.
'But in the spirit of this season and out of the sincerity of my heart, if it is perceived that I had 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 after an hour-long weather delay United carelessly tossed her out of her first-class seat to make way for Jackson Lee, saying in a Facebook post that she saw a uniformed airline employee pull the congresswoman from the boarding line and escort her to a first-class seat.
Then Simon, who was on the second leg of her return flight from Guatemala, said she went to the gate to board and was told her ticket wasn't in the system.
When the attendant asked her if she had canceled her ticket, Simon replied: 'No. I just want to go home.'
After she was seated, she claims she was told by another passenger that her original seat was occupied by a congresswoman and that he had seen her do it twice before.
The airline compensated her with a $500 voucher and another ticket for that flight in Economy Plus.
And on Monday United again apologized to her and said they would reimburse her with a second $500 voucher.
'I am disappointed in having to respond to this accusation, but I believe transparency is very important. Unfortunately, it looks like Grinch is trying to steal the spirit of the holiday.
Last Monday, I arrived at the airport to catch my flight to Washington to continue my fight to get Hurricane Harvey funds back to Texas and other hard hit areas, along with funding of the Children’s Health Insurance Program and of course, trying to stop a tax bill that was going to cause millions of Americans to lose their health insurance.
After receiving my boarding pass, I boarded the plane in the normal process. I did nothing wrong. I asked for nothing exceptional or out of the ordinary and received nothing exceptional or out of the ordinary. I proceeded to take my seat and work on legislative issues on my way to Washington.
Although I was not involved, I observed a disruption by an individual walking back and forth in the cabin. I could overhear her speaking with a flight attendant (an African American woman).
I saw the gate agent go to the seat of the individual who was walking back and forth before we took off.
I later came to understand that the individual had canceled her own flight. However I had nothing to do with that.
I noted that this individual came toward me and took a picture. I heard later that she might have said “I know who she is.” 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.
This saddens me, especially at this time of year given all of the things we have to work on to help people. But in the spirit of this season and out of the sincerity of my heart, if it is perceived that I had anything to do with this, I am kind enough to simply say sorry.
I understand the airline is working to address the passenger’s concerns. I am glad of that. But as an African American, I know there are too many examples like this all over the nation.
I hope one day, we will accept our collective diversity. Happy Holidays.' Immediately after the incident the airline denied Simon's claims.
'After thoroughly examining our electronic records, we found that upon receiving a notification that Flight 788 was delayed due to weather, the customer appears to have canceled her flight from Houston to Washington, DC within the United mobile app,' United said in a statement.
'As part of the normal pre-boarding process, gate agents began clearing standby and upgrade customers, including the first customer on the waitlist for an upgrade.'
Simon denied the airline's claim that she canceled her ticket, leading to the mix-up
Simon denies the airline's claim that she canceled her ticket and claims United staff threatened to remove her from the flight for complaining and for taking a photo of Lee in her seat.
The teacher said she has screenshots of her United app that shows a canceled flight to Houston in August during Hurricane Harvey when she was supposed to visit her daughter, according to the Houston Chronicle.
United says the screenshot wouldn't show the December 18 flight as canceled because Simon did eventually end up taking the flight.
And regardless of the turnout - Representative Jackson Lee said she did 'nothing wrong.'
'I asked for nothing exceptional or out of the ordinary and received nothing exceptional or out of the ordinary. I proceeded to take my seat and work on legislative issues on my way to Washington,' she wrote.
She said she overheard someone say the woman 'cancelled her own flight,' and that she 'noted that this individual came toward me and took a picture. I heard later that she might have said "I know who she is."'
Simon also said she hopes the airline makes everything right with Simon.
But other people on the flight claim they have witnessed the congresswoman carry out similar behavior at least three times before.
'I've seen Lee and IAH cutting in line and rudely taking advantage of her status before. United knows she will play the race card if she isn't treated like royalty so they just give in. They don't care about a hard working teacher vs a privileged idiot,' one person tweeted.
Simon has denied all claims that her anger and frustration with United had to do with race.
'I had no idea who was in my seat when I complained at the gate that my seat had been given to someone else,' she said.
'There is no way you can see who is in a seat from inside the terminal.'
Simon said that five minutes after she snapped the photo of Jackson Lee, another flight attendant sat next to her and asked her if she 'was going to be a problem.'
The teacher said she was so distraught by how the airline treated her that after she arrived home she wrote a letter to the CEO, Oscar Munoz, and posted it on social media.
An airline representative contacted her last Saturday morning and repeatedly apologized.
Simon has asked for a formal, written apology.
'It's just impossible to suspend disbelief and swallow that story that I cancelled my flight,' she said said.
United Airlines has experienced a number of public relations headaches in the past year related to its customer service.
The most notorious case was that of Dr David Dao.
On April 9, just before a United flight was set to take off from Chicago to Louisville, security personnel forcibly dragged Dao off a plane to make room for United crew members.
Dao refused to give up his seat and was left bloodied by the experience, which was filmed on cellphone video and posted to social media.
The viral backlash was a black eye for United, which apologized. The airline and Dao reached a financial settlement for an undisclosed sum of money.
United Airlines has experienced a number of public relations headaches in the past year related to its customer service. On April 9, Dr David Dao (above) was violently dragged off a flight just before take off in Chicago because the airline needed to make room for crew