Fact check: Man in viral airport video was asked to deplane for refusal to wear mask

Camille Caldera, USA TODAY

The claim: A viral video shows a man screaming about being placed on the no-fly list due to riot at the Capitol

On Jan. 6, hundreds of supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol while Congress met to certify the results of the presidential election. The attack forced lawmakers to flee their chambers and left five dead.

Soon after, a clip of a man shouting at an airport terminal began to circulate online — including on Twitter, where it received over 20 million views.

Most users who posted the video claimed the man had been placed on the no-fly list after he participated in the attack at the Capitol.

"I love every single one of you, but this is what they do to us," he screamed in the clip. "They kicked me off the plane."

Robert Gregory shared the video to Facebook, where it received over 1.5 million views. "This dude just found out he's on the no-fly list after being recognized inside the Capitol Building," he wrote.

User @RayRedacted later wrote on Twitter that he "was initially given incorrect information." Robert Gregory has not responded to a request from USA TODAY for comment.

The man in the video was asked to leave American Airlines flight for violating its mask requirement

In reality, the man in the video was asked to leave a plane for violating the airline's mask requirement, not because he was on a no-fly list.

The clip was first posted to TikTok on by Tania DC — who used the handle @heartlessputa, since changed to @heartlessbeach — on Jan. 10. She captioned the video, "Homeboy had a full toddler level meltdown bc he was told to wear a mask."

She later clarified that she didn't know for sure the reason behind his removal from the flight, stating that she was "way too far from where the altercation started" to see. She also noted that the incident took place in Charlotte, North Carolina, not Washington, D.C.

More: Fact check: Video shows Trump family in tent before Jan. 6 rally

Derek Walls, a spokesperson for American Airlines, confirmed to USA TODAY on Jan. 12 that the passenger was asked to deplane for violating its mask requirement.

"On Friday, Jan. 8, a customer was asked to deplane flight 1754 at Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT) for refusing to comply with our mandatory face covering policy. The customer complied with requests to deplane, and the flight departed at 7:42 p.m. EST for Denver International Airport (DEN)," he wrote.

A spokesperson for American Airlines confirmed to USA TODAY that the passenger depicted in a viral video was asked to leave his flight for violating the airline's mask requirement.
A spokesperson for American Airlines confirmed to USA TODAY that the passenger depicted in a viral video was asked to leave his flight for violating the airline's mask requirement.

It's unclear how the false rumor about the clip's link to the no-fly list and the riots at the Capitol began. Some users claimed the man in the clip shouted, "They called me a f***ing terrorist" — a term that has been used to describe the rioters at the Capitol.

But in actuality, he shouted, "They called me a f***ing 'Karen'" — a term that has been used to characterize individuals who refuse to wear masks.

Daniel Dale, a reporter for CNN, slowed down the audio and confirmed on Twitter that the word was "Karen."

More: Fact check: False claim about pardons for those involved in Capitol riot

Lawmaker has called for use of no-fly list

In the wake of the attack on the Capitol, a number of passengers were removed from flights on Alaska Airlines and Delta Air Lines out of Washington, D.C. But those removals were also for "non-mask compliant, rowdy, argumentative" and "unruly" behavior, per USA TODAY.

Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, D-Miss., the chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, has urged the Transportation Security Administration and FBI to put rioters on the no-fly list.

More: Fact check: NPR posted story early, updated live amid Capitol riot

"We already saw reports of ‘unruly mobs’ in air on the way to Washington, D.C. It does not take much imagination to envision how they might act out on their way out of D.C. if allowed to fly unfettered," he wrote.

At the time of his press release on Jan. 7, the agencies had not taken the step.

"This is an action that TSA and the FBI, by law, are able to take but, to my knowledge, have not yet taken," Johnson wrote.

Our rating: False

Based on our research, the claim that a viral video shows a man screaming about being placed on the no-fly list due to the riot at the Capitol is FALSE. The man in the video was asked to leave an American Airlines flight out of Charlotte, North Carolina, for violating its mask requirement.

Our fact-check sources:

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Man in viral video asked to deplane over face mask refusal