Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The woman accused by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of taking her airline seat “because I was an African American woman” is a renowned human rights activist [UPDATE: Washington Times & Daily Caller report the story]

Texas Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee said Tuesday she felt she was targeted by a passenger accusing her of taking her first-class seat on a United Airlines flight “because I was an African American woman” as the airline said she was not given the seat because she is a congresswoman.

Passenger Jean-Marie Simon accused the airline of giving up her first-class seat on a flight earlier this month from Houston to Washington, D.C., to Jackson Lee, a Democrat, in a report in the Houston Chronicle.
Unreported to my knowledge -- and worth considering re: Rep. Lee's allegation that she was the victim of racism -- via Jean-Marie Simon: A foreign witness to Guatemala’s war, November 27, 2012, Amnesty International:
Jean-Marie Simon lived and worked in Guatemala as a photojournalist between 1980 and 1988, a period of extreme violence and brutality in the country. Recently, Jean-Marie donated 1,000 copies of her book Guatemala: Eternal Spring Eternal Tyranny to schools and universities in Guatemala, to keep the truth of what happened alive.  
Via A Testament From Guatemala’s War Years by
Guatemala endured a 36-year civil war that ended in 1996, but it still suffers from organized criminal violence and impunity. At a time when the country is confronting its past, Ms. Simon wants to make sure that young people there will be able to learn what their nation endured under military regimes.

...Few were telling Guatemala’s story when Ms. Simon first traveled to the country.

...Some of her contacts introduced her to others who helped her gain access to people caught up in the conflict. During this time, for example, workers at the Coca-Cola plant had been singled out for assassination. An official with their union gave her a written introduction to one of the guerrilla groups, the Guatemalan Workers Party, whose members took her out with them for a day.
...On one trip, she joined with Allan Nairn and a documentary crew as they traveled to Nebaj and interviewed commanders and troops. In a nearby town, soldiers – who thought they had the blessing of their commander – described how they tortured prisoners. In other places, she and the film crew saw how the military was forcibly moving indigenous people into “model villages” while pressing the men into civil patrols.

...In later years, she prepared reports for international human rights groups and connected visitors with local advocates who were demanding answers from the military regime. It was a sinister time, when activists would be murdered alongside their infant children. She recalls meeting one woman who told her that she had been raped by soldiers every night for a month – sometimes in front of her father. When the commander decided that she was not a guerrilla, he gave her a bar of soap, five pounds of beans and advice to start a new life.

By the time her book was first published, she had decided to go to law school. She practiced for 10 years, then switched to teaching high school Spanish. Now living in Washington, she has returned often to Guatemala in recent years.
I've reached out to Rep. Lee's office for comment.


UPDATE, 12/27/17, 4:00PM

Via Woman accused of racism by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee is human-rights activist by Bradford Richardson, Washington Times, December 27, 2017, which, according to Google's cached version was posted about an hour ago:

I just had a good phone call with Mr. Richardson who informed me that he hadn't seen my item and got on the story after seeing this comment posted on

I took the opportunity to inform him that this morning I sent these questions to Rep. Lee's office, but that I don't anticipate receiving answers, so would he be willing to follow up?

Via Rep. Lee's December 22 Facebook statement:
I noted that this individual [Ms. Simon] came toward me and took a picture. I heard later that she might have said “I know who she is.” Since this was not any fault of mine, the way the individual continued to act appeared to be, upon reflection, because I was an African American woman, seemingly an easy target along with the African American flight attendant who was very, very nice.
1) On what basis did Rep. Lee conclude that Ms. Simon's actions had anything to do with Rep. Lee being "an African American woman" or the flight attendant being African American?

2) If Rep. Lee can't provide a reason, it's an unfounded allegation that may be harmful to Ms. Simon's reputation. If that's the case, doesn't Rep. Lee owe Ms. Simon an apology?

Mr. Richardson agreed to take a look.

UPDATE 12/27/17, 4:55PM

Just spotted this via The Daily Caller -- based on the time stamp,  I still own the scoop.