Fox News is standing by a story that details allegations that Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Los Angeles, and other members of Congress have abused a program created after 9/11 to protect the flying public by assigning air marshals to certain domestic flights — despite Waters’ threat of a lawsuit.
According to the Fox News story, a complaint filed with the House Committee on Ethics alleges that Waters flew from Washington, D.C., to Minneapolis on April 17 to attend the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin, who was convicted of murdering George Floyd. The complaint says Waters was accompanied by two armed Capitol Police and two U.S. Secret Service agents, but allegedly requested two federal air marshals and two more marshals once the plane touched down to escort her in the airport.
U.S. Capitol Police and Secret Service officials denied those claims, telling Fox News that neither agency provided in-flight protection for Waters.
“In a recent article by Fox News, reporters William La Jeunesse and Lee Ross cited sources that falsely claimed I was accompanied by two armed Capitol Police and two U.S. Secret Service agents on an April 17 flight, that I requested a total of four U.S. Air Marshals, and used government resources for my travels,” Waters said in a statement Saturday.
“Variations of this article and false claim were then published by the New York Post and the Daily Mail. Each and every one of these claims is an absolute lie. Let it be made clear that I have never requested or utilized any Capitol Police, Secret Service, or U.S. Air Marshal presence on that flight or any of my flights.”
Waters added that following her trip to Minnesota, “I became aware that documents outlining a security threat assessment that included my flight number and other travel information was leaked to TownHall, a right-wing media outlet. It was then subsequently shared by Fox News, the New York Post, the Post Millennial, and other outlets where it was falsely claimed that the document indicated I had requested police protection during my trip. Again, this is an absolute lie. … This leak of my travel information and operational and threat assessment information is deeply disturbing and puts my life at risk.”
Waters, 82, went on to say: “As a result of Fox’s willingness to lie and deceive its audience, I am now considering a lawsuit against Fox News and demand an immediate retraction of the article.”
Fox News stood by the story, which identifies Sonya Hightower LoBasco, executive director of the Air Marshal National Council, as the person who filed the ethics complaint. The story also includes Waters’ denial.
“Air marshals can only be assigned to high-risk flights. That means flights that have been deemed through our vetted process that have a security risk,” LoBasco said. “When these processes are violated and they’re taken advantage of and they are just tossed to the side now as if they don’t matter, we’re really looking into creating a major problem for ourselves in the aviation domain.”
The air marshal program was created after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks to protect the flying public. Fox News reported that after this year’s Capitol riot on Jan. 6, some members of Congress began requesting extra security when they traveled back to their home districts and to other destinations as well.
“Following the events of January 6th at the U.S. Capitol, the Transportation Security Administration enhanced security and law enforcement presence throughout the transportation system to include airports and aboard aircraft to protect the traveling public, including Members of Congress,” the TSA told Fox News.
Waters has long been a lightning rod for criticism on the right. In March, her office said the congresswoman has been the target of at least two death threats being investigated by Capitol Police detectives.
According to her office, a man from Kansas left a profane and racist message for Waters on Dec. 15 that included the words, “I got an AK47 and I’ll use it if I have to.”
On Feb. 8, a man from Mississippi called the congresswoman’s district office and left a similar message threatening Waters, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, and Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-San Francisco, according to her staff.
A statement from Waters’ office said the Capitol Police were investigating both the call from Kansas and Mississippi, along with a few other “menacing calls” made to her office within the past several weeks.
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