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Bumped United passenger fires back at Rep. Jackson Lee's racism charge, airline

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A United passenger whose first-class seat on a recent flight from Houston to D.C. was given to Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee is firing back at the Democratic congresswoman’s accusations of racism – while challenging the airline’s account of the incident.

Jean-Marie Simon, an attorney and private school teacher, became the latest face of airline passenger woes when she detailed on Facebook and later to the news media how she lost her seat to the Texas lawmaker. 

But despite a statement from United seeking to explain the switch-out, she’s not giving up the fight. And the congresswoman’s response – essentially claiming Simon made a scene because Jackson Lee, as an African-American woman, is an “easy target” – did not calm the waters. 

Simon, in an interview with Fox News, rejected the racism allegation.

“That could have been Donald Duck in my seat,” Simon, a Democrat, told Fox News on Thursday. “I could not see who had boarded the flight. I didn’t even know who she was.”

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Jean-Marie Simon, left, and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas.  (Facebook)

Simon originally accused United of bumping her from her first-class seat on a Dec. 18 flight in order to accommodate the Texas congresswoman. 

At first, Simon didn’t know who was in her seat as she argued at the gate. United eventually gave her a $500 voucher and reseated her in the economy plus section. In her original Facebook post, Simon said another Texas congressman then informed her a fellow member of the delegation was in her seat, and “regularly does this” to passengers. 

‘I could not see who had boarded the flight. I didn’t even know who she was.’

– United passenger Jean-Marie Simon, responding to Rep. Jackson Lee’s racism claim

Simon proceeded to take a photo of Jackson Lee, have a tense encounter with a flight attendant who allegedly threatened to remove her — and has been battling with the airline ever since she got home. 

On one front, United claims Simon lost her seat because she canceled her flight via the app (which she denies). And on another, Jackson Lee piled on this week by reissuing her statement chalking up Simon’s discontent to racial animus. 

“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 with the African American flight attendant who was very, very nice,” she wrote. “This saddens me, especially at this time of year given all of the things we have to work on to help people. But in the spirit of this season and out of the sincerity of my heart, if it is perceived that I had anything to do with this, I am kind enough to simply say sorry.” 

Simon is focusing her energy mostly on dealing with United, not Jackson Lee, but told Fox News, “The only way she is relevant is that she has a documented history of demanding first-class service.” 

Asked for comment, Jackson Lee spokesman Rucks Russell said in a statement: “The Congresswoman regrets any inconvenience that her travel may have caused to any passenger, however the issue in question involves the passenger and United Airlines.” 

WOMAN CLAIMS TEXAS REP TOOK HER AIRLINE SEAT

The 63-year-old passenger says her beef mostly is with United and how they treated her. She also suggested the airline is trying to age-shame her.  

“I’m not some AARP grandmother who doesn’t know how to use a phone,” she said. “I know how to cancel a flight and I did not cancel this flight.”  

It’s still not entirely clear what happened that day. 

Simon used 140,000 frequent flyer miles on Dec. 3 to purchase her first-class ticket from Washington, D.C., to Guatemala and back. On her way home, she had a layover at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston.

Simon said the attendant scanned her ticket but her reservation had been removed from the system. At that point, the member of Congress already was in first class, and Simon eventually got the economy plus seat. 

United later attributed the incident to an app cancellation by Simon. 

The official statement from the airline said they “thoroughly” examined their electronic records and “found that upon receiving a notification that Flight 788 was delayed due to weather, the customer canceled her flight from Houston to Washington, D.C. within the United mobile app.”

The statement continued, “As part of the normal pre-boarding process, gate agents began clearing standby and upgrade customers, including the first customer on the waitlist for an upgrade. We were able to provide this customer a seat on the same flight in economy plus.” 

Simon rejects the explanation. 

“Why would I ever cancel the second segment?” Simon said Thursday. “United furnished no proof that I canceled it. And why didn’t I reserve another fight?”

Though United credited her 140,000 miles, what Simon really wants is an apology from the company’s top brass.  

She tweeted that a “low level employee at a call center” said sorry over the phone but that he hadn’t even been briefed on the details of her complaint.

She also took to Facebook on Wednesday asking where’s the proof she canceled her flight. 

Asked Thursday about the discrepancies between United’s and Simon’s accounts, a United official told Fox News that their records clearly show the flight leg was canceled via the app – and not by a gate agent or other third party.

The official said their internal coding reflects the flight was canceled roughly a half-hour before the original take-off time, after it was clear the flight would be delayed over an hour. The congresswoman was then tapped for the seat because she was at the top of the upgrade list thanks to her global services status, the official said.

Though Simon adamantly denies she canceled her flight, the official said it’s possible this could have been done accidentally.

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Cuomo's 'open letter' to Trump after Texas school shooting slammed on Twitter: 'YOU do something'

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Hours after a gunman opened fire in a Texas high school classroom, killing at least 10 people, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo took to Twitter demanding President Trump “DO SOMETHING.” After listing seven mass shootings in a tweet to Trump, Cuomo, a Democrat, then drafted a letter.

The May 18 “open letter” calls on Trump, the House of Representatives and the Senate to take action.

“When is enough enough?” Cuomo asks. “How many more innocent people have to die before you act?”

Cuomo, who boasted about his “F” rating from the National Rifle Association (NRA), told the polticians to put their country first.

“You were elected to do something – do something. Your first responsibility is to the people of the United States, not the NRA – do something,” Cuomo repeated. “My heart breaks for the families who have to grieve from this needless violence – DO SOMETHING.”

AFTER TEXAS SCHOOL SHOOTING LEAVES SEVERAL DEAD, HUNT FOR EXPLOSIVES CONTINUES

The letter, signed by Cuomo — who dubbed himself the “father of Cara, Mariah and Michaela, taxpayer, Governor of New York, NRA ‘F’ Rated Elected Official” — garnered more than 665 retweets by Friday evening and received dozens of fiery replies.

Several Twitter users lectured Cuomo for allegedly not offering any solutions himself, while others told him he should instead focus on New York’s issues.

“You’re the elected official. What’s your plan? Don’t just pass the buck.”

– Twitter user

“This isn’t about you, it’s like you can’t help yourself. You were elected to help NYS, so NYers should be your priority. Sincerely, an ACTUAL taxpayer of NYS, commuter (when the trains work) and NRA member,” one Twitter user replied.

“Why don’t YOU do something in the State of NY that is so terrific that the rest of the States in the USA will follow? IT IS TIME FOR YOU TO LEAD!” another added.

“You’re the elected official. What’s your plan? Don’t just pass the buck,” one user wrote.

“Oh, like NYC is a crimeless utopia. Governor, DO SOMETHING,” another demanded.

Some people suggested Cuomo was “politicizing” the tragedy in order to boost his own popularity among voters — with at least one user calling it his “2020 audition.”

TEXAS SCHOOL SHOOTING SPARKS REACTION FROM TRUMP, OTHER LAWMAKERS: ‘THIS HAS TO STOP’

“Nice to politicize a tragedy. So while we’re going there, who were the presidents during all of these shootings?” one person asked.

“Really? You’re using this horrible massacre for your campaign? NRA F rated could have been left out of this tweet,” another added.

“Andy, STOP making it so obvious that you are running for Prez in 2020 with your ‘new found voice’ on Twitter!” a Twitter user added.

“Nice to politicize a tragedy. So while we’re going there, who were the presidents during all of these shootings?”

– Twitter user

In particular, many users took issue with Cuomo labeling himself a “taxpayer.”

“You are a Taxpayer rated F official as well,” one user commented.

“Taxpayer? Tax Spender Extraordinaire is more like it,” another jabbed.

However, a handful of people did offer Cuomo some support, echoing his comments to Trump and other lawmakers.

SANTA FE, TEXAS HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT RECOUNTS HORRIFIC SHOOTING

New York Democratic Assemblyman Luis Sepulveda wrote, “Couldn’t agree more Governor.”

“I agree, Congress is failing our children,” one man responded.

Trump spoke with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott Friday afternoon to “offer his condolences for those affected by the shooting at Santa Fe High School,” an official told Fox News. He later addressed the nation, asking government officials to work together to prevent similar tragedies.

“My administration is determined to do everything in our power to protect our students, secure our schools and to keep weapons out of the hands of those who pose a threat to themselves and to others,” Trump said. “Everyone must work together at every level of government to keep our children safe.”

Trump announced in late March that the administration would ban bump stocks and “all devices” that turn otherwise legal weapons into “illegal machine guns,” keeping a promise made amid a bipartisan gun control debate just weeks after 17 students were gunned down at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Fox News’ Brooke Singman contributed to this report.

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Melania Trump to unveil platform focused on 'well-being of children' from White House

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First lady Melania Trump will announce her formal agenda from the White House Monday afternoon.

Stephanie Grisham, her spokeswoman, said Trump will not be “choosing just one topic as she’s done in the past.” Trump’s focus will be on the “well-being of children,” Grisham said.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH MELANIA TRUMP ANNOUNCE HER OFFICIAL AGENDA

The first lady has a 12-year-old son, Barron, and has expressed her interest in children during numerous visits to hospitals and schools. She recently turned the Blue Room at the White House into a mock classroom and invited middle school students to share their hopes and dreams with her.

Trump has promised to tackle cyberbullying as first lady, hosting major online and social media companies at the White House earlier this year. She’s also brought that message directly to classrooms around the country.

And last year, she addressed the United Nations and encouraged world leaders to “step up” to help children in need. She said countries with poverty, trafficking, disease illiteracy and drug issues “hit first and hardest” the children.

“No child should ever feel hungry, stalked frightened, terrorized, bullied, isolated or afraid, with nowhere to turn,” the first lady said. “We need to step up, come together and ensure that our children’s future is bright.”

The event is scheduled for 3 p.m. in the Rose Garden.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Kaitlyn Schallhorn is a Reporter for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter @K_Schallhorn.

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Strippers, strip club owners lobbying San Diego officials to lower permit fees

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Strippers and strip club owners in San Diego are calling on city officials to lower their annual permit fees, claiming they are unjustified and much higher than in other cities.

The San Diego Hospitality and Entertainment Coalition, a group representing the industry, wants to create a task force that would examine the risks of imposing these high fees that can push women toward unregulated websites where they are more vulnerable to prostitution and human trafficking, The San Diego Union-Tribunereported.

The campaigners say that the permit fees – set to rise to $388 for a stripper and $5,830 for a club operator this summer – could also lead to lower overall revenue for the city as more businesses and women could decide to exit the regulated industry.

“No other city charges fees this high, or even at all. Ten years ago the fees were half as much, and it was a lot easier to make ends meet.”

– Debra Seavello, a stripper at Expose in Kearny Mesa.

Police officials, however, say the fees are necessary. They say they need to allocate the personnel to process the permits, respond to incidents in the clubs and prevent prostitution and other criminal activity.

Much of the police work also occurs during late-night hours and that takes police resources away from other enforcement work, officials said at an earlier meeting.

But strippers and strip club owners said the fees are already higher than justified by how much police actually spends time enforcing laws involving strip clubs.

“No other city charges fees this high, or even at all,” Debra Seavello, a stripper at Expose in Kearny Mesa, told a city committee, according to the Union-Tribune. “Ten years ago the fees were half as much, and it was a lot easier to make ends meet.”

“That’s dangerous for them. At least in the clubs we keep them safe and regulated.”

– Jennifer Sales, a former stripper.

For comparison, a strip club operator in Los Angeles pays $528 for a permit compared to nearly $6,000 in San Diego.

“I know there might be a certain stigma for dancers, however these are mothers who are trying to raise children and do the right thing by working rather than being a burden to the state,” Seavello said. “We can’t afford these increases year after year.”

Jennifer Sales, a former stripper who now works as a manager at the strip club, claims the fees are encouraging vulnerable women to use Craig’s List or web cams for work instead. “That’s dangerous for them,” she said, according to the paper. “At least in the clubs we keep them safe and regulated.”

Dino Palmiotto, owner of Expose and president of the industry group, accused the city of violating state law by charging more than what it should actually cost for police to monitor the strip clubs and strippers.

He said the city could be sued if they don’t form a task force to address their concerns.

Lukas Mikelionis is a reporter for FoxNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @LukasMikelionis.

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