JetBlue Flight Attendant: Hero or Heel?

Steven Slater, the JetBlue flight attendant who famously quit after a confrontation with a passenger, has been hailed by many as a working class hero. But new details are emerging that seem to paint the hero as a heel.

Everywhere he goes, Slater is chased by cameras. He's being called the new face of workplace misery.


Pictures: Steven Slater

When asked by a reporter, "What do you have to say to all the people that are saying you're a hero?" Slater replied, "Oh it's, it's so encouraging and so special in this, some really great people out there, and I'm getting a glimpse of that."

But according to the Wall Street Journal, CBS News correspondent Jeff Glor reported, Slater's story of suffering at the hands of rude, abusive passengers may be overblown.

The paper spoke to one passenger, 53-year-old school teacher Marjorie Briskin, who said it was Slater who cursed first at a female passenger who simply asked him where her luggage was stowed.

"I didn't think she was rude in the least. (He) was so inappropriate," Briskin is quoted by the paper.

Another passenger, Lauren Dominijanni, reported asking Slater for a towel to clean up some coffee on her seat. She said Slater, "rolled his eyes in a real rude manner".. then barked "No. Maybe when we get in the air. I need to take care of myself first, honey." "It wasn't normal.. I felt so uncomfortable on that flight."

Still other passengers reported that Slater spent much of the flight patrolling the aisle, methodically opening overhead bins, then slamming them shut.

Passenger Lauren Wood blogged about Slater's behavior, ending with "This guy is not a hero. He's a jerk. And an idiot."

Slater's employer, JetBlue, tried to make light of the situation, writing on its blog: "You can't make up this shtick."

Slater is charged with criminal mischief, reckless endangerment and trespassing.

But Slater's ex-wife Cynthia Susanne, who has remained friends with her former husband, disagrees with these reports.

She told "Early Show" co-anchor Erica Hill on the broadcast Thursday these reports seem to be from attention-seekers.

"As far as I can see, it seems like an opportunistic path for some people to come guard right now," Susanne said. "I have known Steven to be only the consummate gentleman, a stellar flight attendant and a fabulous human being. There would be no reason for him to attack a passenger. If he was having an off day, it's a possibility, but there's no way that he would be verbally abusive to any of his passengers. He took his job too seriously."

In fact, Susanne said she didn't expect this kind of behavior from her ex, whom she's known for 20 years.

"Upon hearing the story, I was surprised," Susanne said. "This is really out of character for anything that Steven would normally behave like."

She added, "I'm more surprised more by the effect that nobody is holding this passenger accountable, just yet. I'm sure the media is bouncing this idea around that this person could be a problem. As far as the Steven that I know, there is no way that he would like, snap, as they say, without provocation. I have no doubt in my mind that to get him to this point this passenger had to have been a nightmare."

Susanne said in the time she's known Slater, he's never expressed his frustration at work.

"I think it was a grand gesture to go," she said. "We can question his motives for doing the slide thing. It was a stylish exit. Nobody got hurt. I can't imagine why there would be criminal charges against him."

But the charges leveled at him are serious. Does he realize their severity?

Susanne said, "I'm sure he understands (the charges). I think he should be appalled and I think he should absolutely wonder why the passenger is not being held more accountable for this. I really believe that, you know, it's -- it's getting away with something for these people to be allowed to mistreat our service personnel. The FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) has very strict regulations and protocols. If the flight attendants don't behave on a certain level there can be fines of the airline and serious injury. There are reasons you want you to have a seat until taxiing is done. So, I think there definitely should be more to this from the opposite side."
Susanne said this incident is "a sign of the times."

"Judging by the media explosion and the overwhelming support by the public, it seems that other people can relate to the fact that we are overrun with rudeness in these times," she said. "I do believe that he just had enough. After 20 years of flying and taking care of passengers and taking care of customers with such esteemed care, to be pushed to this level, I think shows exactly what we're going through."

The media attention surrounding Slater has also including rumors of a reality TV show.

In response to that gossip, Susanne said, "Wouldn't that be fabulous? He is a really wonderful person. I think that the world obviously is his oyster at this point, so he's going to make all the best decisions. He will he handle it with all the grace that he has."
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