jennifer-longdon300x380
Jennifer Longdon, Everytown for Gun Safety

I’ve heard tell of the “airport incident” of Jennifer Longdon of Everytown for Gun Safety, but the story in Mother Jones is the first I’ve read of it in detail:

As Jennifer Longdon steered her wheelchair through the Indianapolis airport on April 25, she thought the roughest part of her trip was over. Earlier that day she’d participated in an emotional press conference with the new group Everytown for Gun Safety, against the backdrop of the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting. A mom, gun owner, and Second Amendment supporter, Longdon was paralyzed in 2004 after being shot in her car by unknown assailants, and has since been a vocal advocate for comprehensive background checks and other gun reforms.

As Longdon sat waiting for her flight, a screen in the concourse showed footage of the press conference. A tall, thin man standing nearby stared at Longdon, then back at the screen. Then he walked up to Longdon and spat in her face. No one else blinked.

Longdon was shocked and embarrassed, she told me, but she didn’t falter. “Wow, aren’t you a big man,” she said as he turned and walked away. Instead of calling for security, she wheeled herself to a restroom to clean herself off. She was tired—she lives with constant physical pain—and didn’t want to miss her flight.

“Should I have done something more? Quite honestly, in the scheme of things it was a little man and a little moment,” she said. “He felt to me like a coward and a bully.”

April 25 was a Friday.

Everytown/Moms Demand Action had completed mid-day rally of roughly 156 souls more than a mile away from the NRA Annual Meetings.

Everytown/Moms Demand Rally In Indianapolis, Indiana. April 25, 2014
Everytown/Moms Demand Rally In Indianapolis, Indiana. April 25, 2014.

The energy-starved rally was over, and the dozens of attendees were leaving town, along with thousands of business travelers and vacationers. On one of the busiest airport travel times of the week, Indianapolis International Airport (IND) was humming with activity.

People flying into the city hurried from their planes, cramped and mildly claustrophobic from hours spent in a tightly packed, noisy metal tube with strangers. Many checked their smartphones upon touchdown. All walked rapidly for the baggage claim if Indianapolis was their final destination. Others rushed to from gate to gate for connecting flights. A scant few headed to airport bars and restaurants if they had long-enough delays to grab an over-priced meal or a drink.

On the outbound side of things, IND was like any other airport, a world of “hurry up and wait.”

Air travelers rushed from terminal entrance to baggage check, then waited the check in their bags. They rushed to the TSA security line, then waited to be screened. They rushed from security to their departure gates, where they finally collapsed among their fellow outbound passengers into gate seating to wait some more. If they were like air travelers all over then nation, they switched their attention immediately to their smart phones, or iPods, or tablets, or laptops, or maybe even print books and magazines (yes, they still exist).

They’ll look up from time-to-time to people watch, checking out the other passengers seating in their area, vaguely curious on who is flying to their destination. It is only at this time, waiting for their plane at their gate, that people typically pause long enough to consider taking in any programming on any nearby televisions.

Now, let’s look at Longdon’s claim again, in that context.

As Longdon sat waiting for her flight, a screen in the concourse showed footage of the press conference. A tall, thin man standing nearby stared at Longdon, then back at the screen. Then he walked up to Longdon and spat in her face. No one else blinked.

Longdon was shocked and embarrassed, she told me, but she didn’t falter. “Wow, aren’t you a big man,” she said as he turned and walked away. Instead of calling for security, she wheeled herself to a restroom to clean herself off. She was tired—she lives with constant physical pain—and didn’t want to miss her flight.

Let’s unpack her claim.

Jennifer Longdon is waiting for her flight at a crowded airport gate during one of the busiest parts of the week at Indianapolis International Airport. These gates are located in part of the airport where only passengers who have cleared TSA screening for their flights are allowed.

Now, if they were watching the same television as Longdon claims, this suggests that the man was either at the same gate, waiting for the same flight, or was waiting for a flight an adjacent gate on one side or the other of her flight.

She is asking us to believe that she watched an absolute stranger see her briefly in a news clip, and make the connection between the person on the screen for a few seconds and her. In other words, she claims that she watched him watch her, conveniently establishing the motive for his alleged attack.

She then asserts that he then decided that whatever she said in the few seconds of the news clip was so offensive that he was going to assault her in front of dozens of witnesses.

Longdon claims that this absolute stranger then walked up to her without saying a word and spat in her face. He allegedly did so in front of dozens of other people, and “no one else blinked.”

He then simply walk away from his flight.

Does this sound like a credible claim to you?

Update: I’ve contacted WTHR, WXIN, WRTV, and WISH, the Indianapolis news stations that would have provided the news footage of the rally. It will be interesting to see what images of Longdon they posted the evening of April 25 that so outraged this complete stranger.