DC Trawler

United Airlines Was Wrong, And So Was The Passenger

When I saw those viral videos yesterday of the guy getting dragged off the United flight, I had one immediate thought, followed by a second, conflicting thought:

  1. “Holy crap, why are they doing that to a doctor?”
  2. “Holy crap, why is a doctor behaving like that?”

United Airlines has mishandled this whole thing just about as badly as possible, every step of the way. They’ve turned pretty much everybody against them. But I’ve reserved judgment, because it felt like there had to be more to the story. As it turns out, there is. Morgan Watkins, Courier-Journal (Louisville, KY):

When airport security yanked David Dao off an overbooked flight Sunday, bloodying him as they dragged him down the aisle, he was thrust into the international spotlight.

Dao, an Elizabethtown doctor, is familiar to many Kentuckians who recall his convictions on drug-related offenses in 2004…

Dao, who went to medical school in Vietnam in the 1970s before moving to the U.S., has worked as a pulmonologist in Elizabethtown but was arrested in 2003 and eventually convicted of drug-related offenses after an undercover investigation, according to documents filed with the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure last June.

As for Dao’s history as a doctor in Kentucky, the medical licensure board documents allege that he was involved in fraudulent prescriptions for controlled substances and was sexually involved with a patient who used to work for his practice and assisted police in building a case against him.

Well, that certainly adds a new wrinkle to the story.

Now, does that justify what United did? In my opinion, no. There had to be a better way to handle it. They deserve all the criticism and all the lost business they’re getting from this. Dragging screaming passengers out of their seats is not a good look.

But frankly, if this guy was my doctor, I’d start looking for a new doctor. The behavior in those videos is not normal, let alone for a medical professional. Nobody would be happy about being made to leave an airline seat they’d paid for, and nobody would be happy about having to reschedule appointments the next day. But throwing a screaming fit, and then wandering around afterward muttering “I need to get home” over and over, makes me worry for the man’s well-being and the safety of his patients. This new information puts that behavior in a new light.

I’m not supposed to say that, though, because that’s “siding with corporations.” That’s “thinking about stuff before forming an opinion about it.” Facts are facts, but any facts that conflict with the narrative you’ve already decided upon don’t count. Everybody sneers at “advocacy journalism,” and then they complain when a story is more complicated than they first thought. Then, facts become “smears.”

Sorry, but nobody is coming out of this story looking good. Yell at me if you want, but it ain’t my fault.

Personally, the whole thing is helpful to me. In one fell swoop, I’ve ruled out one prospective airline and one prospective doctor. I don’t want anybody involved in this story getting my business.

Knowledge is power.