On Wednesday morning, YouTube prankster Adam Saleh was kicked off of a Delta flight for allegedly speaking Arabic. However, Delta has rebuffed Saleh’s claims of discrimination and clarified that they kicked him off of the plane for “provocative behavior,” not for speaking Arabic.
Saleh and fellow YouTube personality Slim Albaher claimed that they were kicked off the Delta flight after Saleh briefly spoke Arabic to Albaher and during a phone conversation with his mother. Saleh’s claim has sparked accusations of discrimination against Delta, but the airline has denied the accusation and stands by their decision to eject Saleh from Wednesday’s flight.
Delta issued a statement to CBS about the incident, stating, “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.”
Although Saleh’s YouTube channel is dedicated to pranks, he posted a YouTube video on Wednesday night claiming Delta’s discrimination and ejection was real. In Wednesday night’s video, both Saleh and Albaher acknowledge that their statements seem like “the boy who cried wolf,” but stick by their Delta bigotry story.
In Wednesday night’s footage, Saleh said, “It’s six white people against us bearded men,” to a flight attendant and alleged another passenger cursed at him as he was being escorted off the plane. The video also shows Saleh getting in an altercation with a Delta official who, noticing Saleh’s camera, said the YouTube star brought the attention on himself and told Saleh to calm down. In response, Saleh said, “I’m as calm as I can be.”
Saleh and Albaher are known to record hoaxes to post on YouTube. In 2014, Saleh and another man, Sheikh Akbar, posted a video claiming to show instances of police Islamophobia in New York. The pair described the video as a “racial profiling experiment” and presented the video as if it was real. In the video, Saleh and Akbar pretended to get into a fight in front of a police officer while wearing jeans and T-shirts.
In Saleh’s video, posted on the YouTube channel TrueStoryASA, the officer apparently didn’t take any action the first time the men fought. However, the men came back a second time wearing more traditional Muslim attire like long shirts and keffiyeh scarves. During the second instance, the pair alleged that a police officer forced them against a wall and frisked them.
The 2014 video, presented as real, sparked a huge controversy about discrimination among New York police officers. When the video was revealed to be fake, people realized the dramatization did more harm against Muslims than good. The national communications director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Ibrahim Hooper, disavowed Saleh and Akbar’s video in a statement to Huffington Post.
“Muslims are already under the microscope, and to do this just to gain some cheap publicity is totally unacceptable,” Hooper said. “There should be no attempt to justify it; they should just apologize and ask people to forgive them for their irresponsible actions.”
As of Wednesday night, Saleh and Albaher have made no further statements about the Delta altercation. However, Saleh’s story is still being debated in the press due to his history of YouTube pranks.
Although Saleh has a questionable reputation, the YouTube personality did acknowledge his “boy cried wolf” background and seemed legitimately sad in his most recently-posted video. Discrimination against Muslim passengers on flights is not unheard of, but the press is trying Saleh in the court of public opinion for his Delta accusation.
[Featured Image by David Goldman/AP Images]