Illinois 10th District Democratic candidate John Tree's campaign said in a release on Tuesday that he helped subdue an unruly passenger on a flight between Chicago and Washington D.C., but the state Republican Party on Wednesday sought to cast doubt on its account of events.
In a release sent out on Wednesday entitled "Superhero or Super Embellisher?" the party cites an anonymous congressional chief of staff who witnessed the account and refutes Tree's story.
The release goes on to ask why the plane was not diverted and why the passenger in question was not handcuffed.
The Chicago Sun-Times has the account from the Tree campaign, which says Tree, a colonel in the Air Force Reserves, was asked by a flight attendant "sometime after takeoff to move from his coach seat to first class in order to stand between her and a passenger who had been extremely verbally abusive to flight personnel and other passengers." The campaign said that the passenger jabbed Tree several times in the abdomen as he stood between the passenger's seat and the galley.
Tree spokesman Peter Giangreco told Hotline On Call that the campaign's story was confirmed by United Airlines via email. This is in addition to the confirmation from MSNBC's Chris Matthews, according to the Sun-Times.
Giangreco said the chief of staff, if seated in coach, could not have possibly seen the scuffle take place at the front of first class.
He added that the Tree campaign spoke with the PIO for the Reagan National Airport Police Department, who said the passenger was charged officially with "Public Intoxication" and "Interference With A Flight in Progress and Its Crew."