Flight attendant is talk of the town

December 15, 2010 10:49:46 AM PST
It's not exactly the prescribed way to quit your job as a flight attendant, cursing out the passengers, then opening the emergency chute as the plane's taxiing to the gate, and sliding out.

But Steven Slater, the Jet Blue flight attendant now facing criminal charges for his mad-as-hell-and-I'm-not-going-to-take-it-anymore outburst yesterday as his flight landed at JFK, has become something of a folk hero to some peeps.

A passenger was apparently rude to him, and got up before the plane arrived at the gate to get her bag. They argued. He got wacked with her carry-on, and suddenly enough was enough for the young but veteran flight attendant.

He got on the PA system, cursed out the passenger, told everyone what they could do to themselves, and then slide out the emergency chute, grabbing some beer, reportedly, on his way out.

The response has been overwhelming but not totally surprising.

Mr. Slater has tapped into a deep vein of emotions about the way people view their jobs. And about the way people treat each other.

Last week, a man named Omar Thornton had problems at his workplace, and rather than admit he was wrong when he stole beer from his employer, he got furious when he was fired. And he shot and killed 8 of his co-workers and colleagues, before killing himself.

People can't relate to that. They can relate to Slater's act of civil disobedience.

Which is why the Internet is filled with Viva La Slater kinds of praise. Our own (non-scientific) poll on 7Online.com shows overwhelming support for Slater, and blames the passenger for rudeness. (CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE INTERACTION.

This is not to excuse Slater for his outburst. But he has clearly tapped into something here.

Tonight at 11, we'll have the latest on the case, on the outpouring of support, and an exclusive interview with his mother, who is defending her son.

By the way, Slater has quite a backstory. His father recently died of Lou Gehrig's disease, and his mom is fighting lung cancer.

We're also following the plane crash in Alaska, that killed former U.S. Senator Ted Stevens. A single-engine plane ? the common mode of transportation for many in Alaska, crashed in the southwestern part of the state. The 86-year-old was the longest-serving Republican U.S. Senator, before he lost his bid for a seventh term in 2008 after his guilty verdict on charges of corruption.

(The conviction was later overturned after revelations of prosecutorial misconduct.)

He and eight others, at least four survived were going to a fishing lodge. Two of those who got out alive are former NASA administrator Sean O'Keefe and his son.

We'll have the latest developments into the crash investigation, at 11.

We'll also have any breaking news, plus Scott Clark with the night's sports. I hope you can join Liz Cho and me, tonight at 11.

BILL RITTER

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