A professor at a taxpayer-funded American university remains unapologetic after she was forcibly removed from a flight on Saturday for raving about American relations with Venezuela and lighting a cigarette right there in her seat on the airplane.
The professor, Karen Bettez Halnon, is a member of the sociology faculty at Penn State Abington, a satellite Penn State campus in the suburbs of Philadelphia.
Her harangue occurred in the middle of an American Airlines flight from Managua, Nicaragua to Miami.
Halnon, 52, was bubbling with rage because the Obama administration recently announced that Venezuela’s perpetually cratering economy threatens the security of the United States, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports.
Concern over this U.S. declaration caused Halnon to speak out and light a cigarette — on a crowded airplane.
“The United States has declared war on Venezuela!” Halnon hollered on the plane. “Venezuela has been declared a national security threat!”
A concerned passenger can be heard responding: “You’re a national security threat!”
At least one fellow passenger filmed her antics for posterity and posted the video on YouTube. (You can watch below.)
Halnon, who keeps a picture of Fidel Castro in her Penn State office, also had high praise for dead Venezuelan socialist Hugo Chavez for her fellow passengers.
“My great hero Hugo Chavez nationalized the oil supply so that people would own the oil, not ExxonMobil,” she told her trapped-in-a-tube audience. “He told ExxonMobil to go away.”
The flight crew was not amused.
“So you’re aware the police are meeting the aircraft to take you out,” a flight attendant who approached Halnon can be heard explaining in a YouTube video, according to CBS Miami.
Halnon later described her outburst as “very much a Henry David Thoreau moment” because of “the injustice against Venezuela,” notes the Inquirer.
The professor also claimed she was treated cruelly by airport and FBI officials when she was arrested.
She has been arrested one time previously, on a charge of public drunkenness.
After reflecting on the incident and her arrest, the public school professor said she has no regrets.
“I felt it was necessary to speak for not only the Venezuelans but the rest of the poor of the world that are constant victims of US military global domination,” Halnon told CBS Miami.
“I was actually smoking a cigarette briefly,” she also admitted. “I took a few puffs out of it and then I put it out and then I joked that the guy next to me made me do it, but that was just a joke.”
She noted that she is similar to many brutal dictators because she smokes.
“Every other revolutionary smokes. Fidel, Daniel Ortega, Tomas Borge, Che Guevara, etc. And so that’s one of the significance,” she told CBS Miami, “to identify with a revolutionary spirit.”
Police in Miami charged Halnon with disorderly conduct. She agrees she is guilty and expects to handle the court proceedings from the comfort of her Pennsylvania home.
“I deeply regret having tarnished the name of Penn State,” Halnon also told the Inqurier.A Penn State Abington representative said administrators are “looking into the matter.”
Halnon has been a Penn State employee since 1999.
She earned a Ph.D. from Boston College and an undergraduate degree (magna cum laude) from Amherst College.
At Rate My Professors, Halnon receives generally positive reviews from students.
Many reviewers note that she offers an “easy A class.”
A number of students note that Halnon is “weird,” though. Expect “a lot of doomsday conversation.” There’s “lots of group discussion and you sit in a circle.”
One reviewer explained that Halnon told students “to go out in public and act white for 30 minutes” with “no other directions given.”
On her Facebook page, Halnon lists “Cuban Revolution” on her list of professional skills. Groups to which she belongs include “Americans Against Genocide In Gaza” and “Vegetarian & Vegan Recipes.”
Halnon’s LinkedIn page boasts that she “specializes in inequality in the United States,” “US imperialism in Latin America,” “US relations with Nicaragua and Cuba,” “the Sandinista Revolution and the Cuban Revolution” and “global travel.”