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PREACH IT! Kevin Smith continues to tweet fire at Southwest, may take his story to Larry King [poll]

Kevin smith The people who run Southwest Airlines seemed pretty pleased with themselves after their poorly explained treatment of director Kevin Smith this week. But Smith sure isn’t done -- and neither is the media.

Less than 48 hours after Smith was booted off of a Southwest flight (supposedly for being too plump, even though he fit well into his seat and there was a fatter guy on the same plane) the “Cop Out” director has become a hot commodity on the talk show circuit.

(Full disclosure: Smith is also a hot commodity with us. We at the Ministry have been trying to get an interview with him all day. No success.)

ABC, for one, has gotten aggressive. Per Smith, "Good Morning America” “show[ed] up at my house last night.” (We didn’t know the GMA people existed after sunset. That’s kind of cool. But we digress.)

Also, Larry King wants Smith badly. This morning, via the handle @kingsthings, the CNN talk show host tweeted that he wanted to interview Smith about the Southwest incident. Smith tweeted back, “I'm in L.A., you're in D.C. So please understand when I say this: I'm not going anywhere NEAR an airport again this week.”

King tweeted back, “Good news: I'm in LA, too. No need to go to airport. Would love for you to stop by tonite (sic) and we can talk.”

Smith’s response? “'kay. Thanks!”

That said, Smith’s appearance of choice may be “The Daily Show.” Yes, it’s in New York, but that’s only three days via Greyhound bus. Specifically, Smith has tweeted a challenge to Southwest: The airline would bring its seats to Jon Stewart’s set. If Smith sits in them with ease, the airline must re-train its staff and, per Smith, “admit you lied.”

As for the airline, its cold, tin heart will go on. Despite Southwest’s apparently inconsistent applications of its policy, its smug blog treatment of the incident (“Not So Silent Bob"? Really?) and its blithe disclosure of a regular customer’s travel preferences, industry experts have applauded the company for its handling of Smith.

“This shouldn't have a lasting impact on Southwest's business, just because they handled the issue swiftly,” aviation branding expert Shashank Nigam, of the company Simpliflying, tells the Ministry. “Southwest Airlines is a brand that can withstand such minor blips like Kevin Smith.”

Probably, but until Southwest can explain things a little more clearly, some of us here at the Ministry will be steering clear of the airline -- at least until it explains why that fatter guy was still on Smith's flight when it took off.

-- Leslie Gornstein

Photo: Kevin Smith poses at home for portraits in October 2008, shortly before "Zack and Miri Make a Porno" hit theaters. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times

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Comments () | Archives (87)

@Mark R -- Christie D'Zurilla here from the Ministry of Gossip, which I'd like to point out is a celebrity and pop culture blog, not an investigative reporting operation.

As you might notice to the right, we have a category for "nonscientific online polls." Our poll questions are, shall we say, designed for comedic value and should not to be taken as a serious indicator of national opinions or trends.

But you knew that.

//cdz

Southwest has taken a very reasonable and fair approach to dealing with the issue of overweight customers and should be applauded for their actions. Educate yourself: Please read their "Customer of Size" policy before posting your comments. Use this link:
http://www.southwest.com/travel_center/cos_qa.html

Highlights: 98% of those who purchase two tickets get their money back for the 2nd seat because the flight is not full. SWA makes it easy to get this refund (they give you a form at boarding time). These customers also get pre-boarding privileges (i.e. in front of everyone else) and can pick any two seats they want (SWA open seating process). They also get a "Reserved" sign to place in their extra seat.

He threw all of this away when requesting a standby seat on an earlier flight, which BTW, was completely full.

So there!. And besides that, I too am disgusted with "peeps of size" leaking over into my seat. Bah, humbug. I too have my rights, which get infringed upon by the Kevins of this world.

"Southwest and all the other airlines are missing out on a golden opportunity. It would be simple stuff to replace a couple of rows on their aircraft with "Comfort seating" ie: two wider seats instead of the usual three and sell those seats at 150% of the regular fare."

@SkinnyGuy, I believe this has already been done- on most airlines it's called "first class".

CDZ,

Claiming the poll is for "comedic value," to deflect criticism of its methodology, is about as convincing as Jon Stewart claiming the Daily Show is for comedic value, to deflect criticism of his political arguments. That this is a "pop culture blog, not an investigative reporting operation," may technically excuse a lack of journalistic standards, but a blog can still mislead readers. Insofar as it takes sides, it invites criticism of both its information-gathering methods and its arguments.

For instance, the author states, "Despite Southwest’s apparently inconsistent applications of its policy, its smug blog treatment of the incident (“Not So Silent Bob"? Really?) and its blithe disclosure of a regular customer’s travel preferences, industry experts have applauded the company for its handling of Smith. . . . [S]ome of us here at the Ministry will be steering clear of the airline." This strikes me as a sincere attack on Southwest, if lighthearted, and calculated both to elicit laughs and to incite public outcry against Southwest. The poll's option of "Kevin Smith is a funny dude" shows the poll was intended to be humorous, but does not change the fact that the phrasing of other options deters voting in favor of Southwest. People can draw mistaken conclusions even from a non-scientific poll. It's only fair that someone respond on Southwest's behalf -- even if the forum is not designed for serious and balanced inquiry.

Mark

What you people are not understanding is the following:

1) Kevin admits he's fat, but is not fat enough to be removed from the plane

2) He was in his seat, with the seatbelt on (no extender required) and the arm rests easily came down

3) The two people he was between both said there was no problem

4) The captain never saw Kevin

5) He purchased two tickets because he can (not because he needs them) and was on a different flight (standby) that only had one seat available, but he fits with no problem in one seat (and regularly flys)

6) On the flight he took after the incident, he was seated in a row with another woman who was heavy and she got spoken to, even though there was an empty seat between her and Kevin

@Mark R -- You've responded on Southwest's behalf quite well, even without a poll answer that suits your opinion.

I recommend reading Leslie's other "Preach It!" posts (click in the category cloud to the right) to get a sense of her writing in general. The point of the "Preach It!" feature on this blog is that Leslie *does* take sides, and Leslie is smug. Regular readers of the Ministry of Gossip are familiar with this feature; readers who disagree typically register their dissenting opinions in comments.

If you're interested in the L.A. Times news story about the incident, posted early Monday morning, hours before this blog post went live, here's the link:
http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2010/02/southwest-aplogizes-after-director-kicked-off-flight-for-being-too-heavy.html

For the LAT entertainment news story on the incident, posted a couple of hours after this blog post, here's the link: http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/celebrity/la-et-kevin-smith16-2010feb16,0,2005231.story

If you want to read about Kevin Smith breaking a toilet and living to tell the tale, which came slightly after the previously mentioned story, here's the link: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/movies/2010/02/kevin-smith.html

Here is a link to Southwest's most recent response, as of 11:30 p.m. PST Monday: http://www.blogsouthwest.com/blog/my-conversation-with-kevin-smith-0

Smith has also put a wrap-up reply on his own blog that discusses the SWA post linked above, though MOG can't link to it because of the language. But this should help you find it: http://twitter.com/ThatKevinSmith/status/9166100231

Smith also commented in his Twitter stream about a CNN poll that found 58% of voters siding with Southwest, so I'm guessing that Southwest has a pretty good chance of emerging from this day unscathed.

As for the folks who might be led astray in their air travel decisions by nonscientific online polls built on clearly flawed methodology (the joke here, of course, is that ALL open-to-the-public online polls are flawed, because the sampling cannot be controlled, and the results can be easily influenced) -- I don't think that changing our poll answers to different but equally unscientific choices would help those folks significantly on their journey. I'm hardly defending the poll's "methodology"; my argument has always been that online polls *have no* methodology, and therefore no value beyond entertainment.

If this poll concerns you, you should check out the one where we had a smackdown over "to the manner born" vs. "to the manor born." That one was a super-hoot.

//cdz

Southwest should be forced to let all people Fly. Every year the Federal Government gives money to airports, FAA, and to Southwest to under write there cost. if they want to fly with their own rules then pay all the money back and pay what it should really cost them to use a Airport. I'm tired of big co taken our money then screwing us

I listened to most of Kevin Smith's podcast about the incident. Three impressions.

The airline may have been off-base on this.

Memo to Kevin: If you want to present your side of an incident. It's best to keep it brief and don't use obscenities. Also, tweeting obsessively is not an achievement. You're not 22 anymore.

Lastly, Southwest will never present a detailed version of their side of the story. Corporations generally don't do that. So we'll never get the full version of what really happened.

It's amazing how many people aren't actually reading any of the facts before they judge what happened. Kevin Smith said his family often (not always) buys an extra seat for comfort. Because airplane seats suck. Not because he knows he can't fit into one.

And if one more person trots out safety or security, then you need to start thinking about the people with other reasons to be slow getting in and out of their seats. What about the people who take medications with any sort of sedative effect? Or older people (but you can't discriminate by age!) Or people with various disabilities (again, illegal to discriminate). So SWA is taking advantage of the one group of people it's not illegal to harass.

Addressed to the discussion between Mark and CDZ:

Even with the MOG's stance that it is not an investigative reporting operation, I'd like to offer that the article showed more fairness toward both parties than most of the stories I've read over the past few days. Something else I've read is the comments on all of the stories, and it makes me very sad for the human condition.

Unfortunately for Kev, and for anyone else on the north side of 200 pounds, the obesity-hating portion of our population has used it as a white card justification to say anything and everything they ever wanted to in order to dehumanize "fat" people. Public opinion is as dead as literacy. I'm sure many of the comments I read were sincere, honest ejaculations of very differing but personal experiences with overweight people-- but the fact remains that SWA's policy is not the story.

SWA's employees are the story. If the prudes could learn to ignore F-Bombs and just listen to Kev for a few minutes, they'd realize this isn't even about him anymore. An SWA employee lied to him about why he was ejected, and he's been continually lied to with backhanded apologies written with only one thing in mind: Don't Embarrass The Company.

The company should be embarrassed without any help from any further employees, since it was one or two of them that precipitated this entire drama. No one should be blaming Kev's spare tire, since he flew home in one seat with the armrests down. SWA should be called to the carpet for needlessly embarrassing him instead of simply saying, "Sir, we oversold this flight and made a mistake in allowing you to board. This seat is needed for a customer who booked this flight."

Had the truth been told in the first place, there would have been no tweetstorming tirade from Kev, and none of these rampant discussions of obesity would be attached to this medium sized collection of mostly poorly-researched articles that parrot SWA's blog. The guilty employees should be suspended and written up for poor customer service, and the entire staff should be trained on how to properly address the issue, complete with roleplay and evaluation.

To paraphrase one the comments here, Kevin Smith could lose lots of weight, and Southwest Airlines' policy would STILL be discriminatory. People are not one size fits all. Airlines do not grant rebates to smaller than average passengers or allow two children to be strapped into one adult seat.Transportation available to the general public under federal licensing should not be legally permitted to infringe on the comforts of any of its passengers...or subject them to public humiliation. Expose the second seat policy for what it is: a comfort buffer zone predicated on the financial bottom line rather than the size of any passenger's bottom.

@Dave -- Christie D'Zurilla here from the blog. I got your links and tried to send you a note but the email bounced back.

Just wanted to let you know I'm looking into it, so your comment has not disappeared into the ether, even though it's not published either.

Thanks!

//cdz

 
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