Qantas backs legal action against will.i.am over racism claim
SYDNEY, Australia (UPDATED) – Australia's Qantas on Monday, November 18 rejected accusations of in-flight racism from US performer will.i.am, with the airline saying it would back legal action against the Black Eyed Peas frontman.
The multiple Grammy-winning artist had lashed out at a Qantas flight attendant and named her on Twitter after she called the police over an altercation during a flight from Brisbane to Sydney.
In his tweets, the star said the crew member had been "overly aggressive" and unnecessarily escalated the situation after he didn't hear an on-board safety briefing because he was wearing headphones.
Using the hashtag #RacistFlightAttendant, he said she was "beyond rude" and "took it to the next level by calling the police", five of whom were waiting for him when the 90-minute flight landed on Saturday.
"Thank god the other passengers testified that SHE was out of control," tweeted William Adams, better known by his stage name will.i.am, adding that the police had "finally" let him go.
He said he had complied "quickly & politely" with instructions from the woman to put his laptop away.
"I don't want to believe she racist. But she has clearly aimed all her frustrations only at the people of color," he wrote.
I’m currently on a flight from Brisbane to Sydney.— will.i.am (@iamwill) November 16, 2019
I’m sorry to say me and my group have experienced they worse service due to a overly aggressive flight attendant...
I don’t want to believe she racist.
But she has clearly aimed all her frustrations only at the people of colour
This is how your greeted when you land from Brisbane to Sydney flying @qantas with a #RacistFlightattendant named Lorraine Marshall...She sent the police after me bacause I couldn’t hear the P.A while making beats on the plane wearing noise canceling headphones... pic.twitter.com/9xT7WqTUoO— will.i.am (@iamwill) November 16, 2019
.@Qantas Your #RacistFlightattendant was beyond rude & took it to the next level by calling the police on me. thank god the other passengers testified that SHE was out of Control the police finally let me go. imagine if the police were as aggressive as Lorraine Marshall— will.i.am (@iamwill) November 16, 2019
I’m sorry? Is callin the police on a passenger for not hearing he P.A due to wearing noise canceling headphones appropriate? If didn’t put away my laptop “in a rapid 2min time” I’d understand. I did comply quickly & politely, only to be greeted by police. I think I was targeted https://t.co/8WVIuMKXJa— will.i.am (@iamwill) November 16, 2019
This is me filing a “proper complaint”...this way I know my complaint & treatment will be heard...I’m using the same tool you would use if you were wrongly accused of doing something & pulled away by police officers. I still don’t know what I did wrong for police to come https://t.co/i3ShYc3PaX— will.i.am (@iamwill) November 16, 2019
A spokesman for the Australian flag carrier said Qantas "completely" rejected the suggestion that race was a factor in the incident.
"There was a misunderstanding on board, which seems to have been exacerbated by will.i.am wearing noise-cancelling headphones and not being able to hear instructions from crew," he said.
The airline initially said over the weekend that it would be "following up with will.i.am and wish him well for the rest of the tour".
But on Monday a spokesman said the airline would be willing to support legal action against the star.
"Absent a retraction, and if the crew member wanted to take the matter further, we'd certainly be willing to provide legal support for them to do this," he said.
Australia has extremely strict defamation laws and courts routinely rule in favor of those claiming reputational damage.
Black Eyed Peas ended a five-city Australia tour with a concert in Sydney on Saturday, November 16.
The incident came two months after Australian twin-sister pop duo The Veronicas were removed from a Qantas flight by police after a disagreement with staff over luggage. – Rappler.com