Right-wing media blame Boeing door blowout on FAA for hiring people with intellectual disabilities

The real culprit is unchecked corporate power and industry monopolization; the regulations have been on the books since 2013.

Right-wing media figures are blaming Federal Aviation Administration guidelines that promote hiring people with intellectual disabilities for a Boeing jet’s midair equipment failure earlier this month.

On January 5, a “mid cabin door plug” blew out of a Boeing 737 Max 9 while the jet was in midair, the latest incident in an alarming history of manufacturing problems at the aviation giant. The incident is now under investigation by the FAA, but conservative pundits have been quick to claim that the event wasn’t the result of a huge corporation potentially skirting federal regulations. In their telling, the agency’s push to bring in people with physical and intellectual disabilities, and those from other underrepresented groups, into a historically white and male sector is to blame.

Those charges of course are baseless. FAA guidelines to recruit and hire workers with disabilities have been in place since at least February 2013. Yet conservative media outlets falsely blamed diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives for the midair door failure. Fox News’ Laura Ingraham told her audience that diversity initiatives “may mean needless American deaths and a lot of them.”

The real culprit is Boeing’s decision to prioritize wealthy Wall Street investors with lavish dividends and stock buybacks totaling $68 billion, and to spend an additional $817 million on compensation for top executives, rather than setting that money aside to ensure its planes meet federal safety standards.

Right-wing pundits frequently adopt disingenuous populist rhetoric, but as this episode demonstrates, they are happy to place blame on the most marginalized in society rather than criticize the corrosive effects of wealth concentration. Here's how it played out:

  • On January 14, FoxNews.com published a story with the headline “FAA’s diversity push includes focus on hiring people with ‘severe intellectual’ and ‘psychiatric’ disabilities.”
  • The New York Post then republished the piece on the same day under the same headline. (Like Fox News, The Post is controlled by the Murdoch family.) 
  • Referencing The Post, The Daily Wire’s Candace Owens asked her viewers, “In what circumstance, in a career as life or death as working for an airline, would you want somebody that was severely intellectually disabled?” Owens then baselessly speculated these workers might be “responsible for bolting the plane, but they are not able to do that because, of course, they are severely intellectually disabled.” Owens concluded the segment by arguing that the broader suite of DEI initiatives at the FAA should “make you very nervous to fly.”
  • On Salem Media’s The Charlie Kirk Show, producer Blake Neff said the FAA is “trying to hire people with mental illnesses, intellectual disabilities for to air traffic controller jobs — that’s eventually going to kill people.” Neff is a disgraced former Tucker Carlson Tonight producer who was fired after CNN revealed that he’d anonymously posted racist, homophobic, and sexist comments to an online forum.
  • On X (formerly Twitter), Donald Trump Jr. posted: “Maybe I’m weird, but I don’t want people with ‘SEVERE INTELLECTUAL & PSYCHIATRIC DISABILITIES’ Flying or guiding planes!” He added: “This stuff will get people killed and they couldn’t care less!”
  • On Newsmax, host Rob Schmitt said some of the FAA initiatives “are somewhat worrisome for people who want to fly on planes that are not piloted by psychopaths.”
  • TheBlaze posted an article with the headline “FAA blasted for pushing to hire those with 'severe intellectual' disabilities and 'psychiatric' issues.”
  • TheBlaze founder Glenn Beck addressed the topic as well on X, writing, “I think people with 'severe intellectual disabilities' should not be the target candidate to be in charge of my air travel.” 
  • Right-wing alleged satire website The Babylon Bee mocked the news with a disparaging joke.

For as much as right-wing pundits love to masquerade as champions of the working class, they always side with capitalism in all its iniquities and injustices at the expense of marginalized groups.