The woman Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) accused of being a racist in an argument over an airplane seat, is purportedly a “celebrated photojournalist” who has worked extensively in documenting human-rights abuse throughout her career.
Jean-Marie Simon, the woman whose first-class seat on United Airlines was given to Jackson Lee, helped document human-rights violations in Guatemala during the 1980s when the country’s military overthrew the government — a period that saw hundreds-of-thousands of Guatemalans disappear or be killed, The Washington Times reported.
Jackson Lee accused Simon on Tuesday of being upset that her seat was taken away from her because “I was an African American woman.”
The controversy began last week when Simon, 63, wrote in a Facebook post that the airline gave her first-class seat to Jackson Lee while she was on a return trip from Guatemala.
“I was the last passenger on the plane,” Ms. Simon wrote on Facebook. “A Texas congressman, a nice guy, sat down next to me. He said was glad I had made it on the flight. I showed him my boarding pass with my seat, 1A, printed on it. He said, ‘You know what happened, right? Do you know who’s in your seat?’ I said no. He told me that it was Jackson Lee, a fellow U.S. congresswoman who regularly does this, that this was the third time he personally had watched her bump a passenger.”
United reportedly apologized for the incident and gave Simon a $500 travel voucher — despite previously saying that it did nothing wrong and that Simon canceled her own airline ticket.
However, Simon, who requested an apology in writing, claims that the airline has not issued her an official apology for the incident and that a lot of what she is learning about the situation, she is learning from the media.