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.
“Fox News and other publications like the New York Post and the Daily Mail published absolute lies and cited sources that claimed I had requested that Capitol Police, Secret Service, and U.S. Air Marshals travel with me on an April 17 flight. I immediately issued a statement refuting those false claims, highlighting how dangerous lies can be, and challenging Fox News to reveal the truth to its audience — something they continuously fail to do,” Waters said in a statement issued Tuesday.
“Since I have publicly refuted their claims and called for a retraction of the article, these publications have chosen once again to continue in their mission to deceive their audiences and withhold the truth. Still, Fox News has kept the article online and, rather than inform their viewers of the truth, has decided to gloss over the fact that they deceived readers. Today, the article’s only addition says that myself, Capitol Police, and Secret Service denied the claims. That’s a cop out. How about stating that your sources were wrong and that you published a completely false story?”
” … I will not simply disappear and drop this issue,” the statement continued. “I am going to pursue the fact that Fox News charades as a news organization. Moving forward, on behalf of all good people who cherish the truth, I will continue evaluating the best course of legal action.”
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.
“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.”
Waters said Saturday 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.”
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.