Folk hero, or nut job? That's the question Americans are asking today as we learn more about the fed-up flight attendant who just couldn't take it anymore.
38-year-old Steven Slater was arraigned today in Queens, New York on reckless endangerment and criminal mischief charges. His lawyer, Howard Turman spoke outside court, saying, "People who deal with the public and our lack of courtesy to one another do face stress."
Slater's freakout on a JetBlue flight is the talk of the nation.
Matt Lauer on the Today Show said, "What a wild story."
George Stephanopoulos said on Good Morning America, "Everyone is talking about this ultimate take this job and shove it moment."
Some are calling Slater a folk hero. Overnight more than 16,000 fans signed up on a Facebook tribute page.
"I raise a glass in your honor," wrote one fan.
"Way to go!" said another.
A former flight attendant told the New York Times, "Good for him. If he would have called me I would have picked him up at the airport."
Kathy Lee Gifford said on the Today Show, "That's what a lof ot the reaction has been, like, 'This guy's my hero, I wish I could do that at my job.' "
Before his on-board meltdown, Slater seemed to be a model employee, even helping to design the flight attendant's uniforms. He was also part of the company's in-flight values committee. But he was also known for having an explosive temper.
The New York Post front page says it all, "Freakin' Flyer."
And on his Myspace page, Slater admits to having battled addition, saying, "Beating alcoholism and substance abuse 'one day at a time' has opened up new worlds of opportunity for me."
It all happened at New York's JFK airport just after a JetBlue plane from Pittsburgh landed Monday. As the plane taxied to the gate, a passenger stood up too soon to get his luggage from the overhead compartment. Steven Slater told him to sit down. An explosive confrontation ensued.
At one point the passenger's bag hit Slater in the head, leaving a bruise. That's when Slater took to the intercom, unleashing a string of profanities.
JetBlue passenger Philip Catelinet said, "One of the flight attendants made this announcement where he swore at a passenger and we thought, that's weird nobody every swears on the intercom. Somebody's going to be in trouble."
In his rant, Slater was quoted as saying, "To the passenger who called me a (expletive deleted), (expletive deleted) you. I've been in this business 28 years. And that's it, I'm done."
Then he grabbed a few beers from the concession cart, and believe it or not, activated the emergency chute and slid down. Slater reached his car in the employee parking lot and drove home to Belle Harbor, Queens. That's where police came knocking on his door, big time.
Slater was taken into police custody, that bruise still evident on his forehead, but a smile on his face. His lawyer says he's stressed out by caring for his dying mother, a retired flight attendant.
Howard Turman, Slater's lawyer said, "She (his mother) has stage four lung cancer, so he's a dedicated son."
In a statement, JetBlue says, "At no time was the security or safety of our customers or crew members at risk."
Kate Hanni of www.flyersrights.org said, "Passengers have an obligation to follow the rules and federal guidelines for safe travel. The flight attendants also have an obligation to keep not just one, but all passengers safe on an aircraft. Neither of those were followed yesterday during this JetBlue event."