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PostWatch: An irregular correction to the Washington Post

Brought to you by Christopher Rake


Thursday, June 27, 2002
1:34 PM

We don't want guns, and it's your fault... The leader of the Association of Flight Attendants has made a ridiculous statement that giving guns to pilots is sexist, particularly in the absence of more self-defense training for flight attendants. Sara Kehaulani Goo reports:

After a House committee yesterday approved a bill that would give some pilots guns, a flight attendants union angrily charged that the measure "smacks of sexism" because it does not provide enough self-defense training for its members.

It's nice to see a lede that's in the first graf, unlike many of the stories I blog, but Goo doesn't even get all the way through it before showcasing the charge of sexism. The biggest part of this story ably portrays this view, including about seven of the top eight grafs. Most of the rest of it is a neutral description of the bill that was passed, which permits gun training and carriage for a minuscule percentage of pilots.

Here's all the rebutting:

[House aviation subcommittee chairman John] Mica said that he will talk to other members about including more training for flight attendants. Asked about the sexism claim, Mica said flight attendants "don't gain any points with me when they do that juvenile . . . campaign."

That's it. All done!

Lack of context leaves a gaping hole in this story. The flight attendants don't want guns in the cockpit or in the cabin. They had a chance to try arming themselves but chose not to. Now they're mad that a few pilots are getting guns, so by all means let's blame it on sexism.

This is from a Delta flight-attendant union website, and refers to a congressional hearing last fall on the issue:

During the question and answer period of the testimony, [union president Pat] Friend indicated that "flight attendants don't support the pilots' proposal to carry guns on planes." Said Friend, "the possibility of the gun getting into the wrong hands is too risky, it may endanger more lives than it protects."

That's one sound argument, but for Friend to blame the bill on sexism is pathetic. From the Association of Flight Attendants:

“There are three major components to aircraft security. First, screening in the airport has been stepped up. Second, securing the cockpit in the event a terrorist gets through airport screening has been implemented. However, in one of the most blatant displays of sexism perpetrated by a Congressional Committee in decades, the third crucial component, protecting the passengers and cabin crew in the event a terrorist attack, has been completely ignored.

Flight attendants want to be taken seriously as safety officers rather than denigrated as waiters. Statements like this aren't going to help. And Goo (or her editors) should have at least carved out a few of the alleged-sexism grafs in exchange for a little background on the flight attendants' own preference for self-defense training and tasers over guns.

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