News & Politics

“Yes, Senator, We Know Who You Are”

When Utah congressman Jason Chaffetz complained this fall after being singled out for additional screening at the Salt Lake City airport, he became the latest in a long line of politicians who’ve run into trouble at airports. Here’s a roundup of some of the most memorable confrontations.


In 2000, cameras caught Congressman Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island trying to shove a woman who was monitoring a metal detector when he was told his carryon bag was too large to fit through the x-ray machine.

In March, when gloved officials asked to search the bag of Oregon congressman Peter DeFazio, who had helped create the Transportation Security Administration, he allegedly mumbled a swear word.

Boarding Gate

Louisiana Senator David Vitter, of “DC madam” notoriety, threw a tantrum in March after he set off an alarm by opening a security door to a restricted area while rushing to catch a flight. When confronted by an employee, Vitter went into a “do you know who I am?” tirade before fleeing the scene.

Indiana congressman David McIntosh was charged with two counts of assault and battery in 1996 after trying to push his way past two USAir employees and onto a full plane. Both workers said McIntosh smelled of alcohol.

Airport Restroom

Making the phrase “wide stance” famous, Idaho senator Larry Craig was arrested in 2007 by an undercover police officer in the Minneapolis–St. Paul airport for allegedly making gestures “consistent with someone wishing to engage in lewd contact.”

Baggage Claim

California congressman Bob Filner was charged with misdemeanor assault and battery in 2007 after pushing an airline employee when his luggage failed to arrive at the baggage-claim carousel in a timely manner.


On a Continental flight in 2003, Texas congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee allegedly demanded a complimentary upgrade to first class. When the flight attendant explained that the plane was full and Jackson would have to sit in coach, the lawmaker exploded, saying she worked in Congress and worked too hard to sit in coach.

In 1996, 94-year-old senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina reportedly shoved a USAir flight attendant who refused to let him hang his coat in the first-class compartment.

This article first appeared in the November 2009 issue of The Washingtonian. For more articles from that issue, click here.

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