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United Passenger's Family Speaks Out For The First Time. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired April 13, 2017 - 11:00   ET



RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: -- everywhere we stepped yesterday inside the airport people were talking about this video. They wanted to know when something would be done. When is apology enough, and of course, a lot of people reacting to United's CEO's apology, thinking that the third time was a charm, but some people say they believe that Dr. Dao deserves something for what he experienced.

We've all seen the video of that man being dragged down the middle of the aisle. We now found out that two more Department of Aviation officers have been suspended due to this case. That's three in total.

We do believe that in the next two or three minutes that his lawyers and his daughter will be stepping to the podium behind me to have the first time to talk about what exactly happened.

I believe Dr. Dao is still in the hospital. We do know the lawyers moved to go to a circuit court yesterday and asked for the circuit court to start preserving evidence in this case and that they've started making sure that some of the videos were pulled, some of the recordings from the crew who was there.

And they want to know exactly what happened and the steps that led up to this. You've had lawmakers and everyone else talk about the idea, they want to see changes made in the way passengers are treated, because as of right now, they think there needs to be more customer service for those passengers when they're on a flight like this, especially when they pay for a flight.

As we were talking about, now you can see for the first time, those lawyers and the family members are actually walking toward the podium as we speak, so this news conference is getting ready to get under way.

We are just given that one-minute total when this was going to happen, so I'm going to step out of the way as they start to sit down and start the conversation.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Let's keep the conversation going for just a second until we hear from these attorneys. The guidance we've received is that it's two attorneys and the daughter of Dr. Dao. Looks like we're about to begin. Let's listen in.

THOMAS DEMETRIO, ATTORNEY FOR UNITED PASSENGER DRAGGED OFF FLIGHT: Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen. My name is Tom Demetrio, and this is Steve Golan, and this is Crystal Pepper at the end. Steve and I have the honor and responsibility to represent Dr. Dao, and Crystal is one of Dr. Dao's five children.

I'm going to say a few words. Crystal is going to say a few words, and then we'll open it up to any questions you might have. I would ask only that if you do ask a question, you state your name and your affiliation.

So, we're gathered here because of a rather disturbing video that went viral, as things do in our world today. The media inquiries of us has been quite amazing, which is why we thought this might be the best way to go about answering some of your questions.

Mr. Munoz has taken to the airwaves and has given his view of things, a couple versions of it, and I thought it might be a good idea put this video in the perspective of my world of law. Here's the law. Real simple.

If you're going to eject a passenger, under no circumstances can it be done with unreasonable force or violence. That's the law. If unreasonable force and violence is used under a set of circumstances, the common carrier, United Airlines in this case, is responsible.

For each of us in this room, as we bump along in a day-to-day fashion, we owe each other an ordinary care standard. I'm not to be careless and hurt you. I'm not to be negligent and hurt you. But in the world of common carriers, they have the duty of care to provide protection and safety to its fare-paying passengers as we all saw on the video.

That was not done. That was not done in this case, and I would defy anyone to suggest that there was not unreasonable force and violence used to help Dr. Dao disembark that plane. So, the laws are there for the protection of each of us.

[11:05:09]What's been extraordinary in just these few days since the event has been that the calls I have received from passengers, from employees of United, former employees of United, with respect to what we all saw.

And the fact of the matter is, I have concluded the following, that for a long time, airlines, United in particular, have bullied us. They have treated us less than maybe we deserve.

I conclude that based upon hundreds, literally hundreds of tales of woe, of mistreatment by United, is that here's what we want as a society. We want fairness in how people treat us, we want respect, and we want dignity. That's it. Not a big deal.

This seems so simple. Forget the law for a minute that requires common decency in the treatment of passengers, but just treat us with respect. Make us feel like you really care. And I must say, I don't believe it's limited to the airline industry.

I think corporate America needs to understand that we all want to be treated in the same manner, with the same respect and the same dignity that they would treat their own family members. If they do that, wouldn't it be great?

So, will there be a lawsuit? Yes, probably. As you may know, we have taken a step. Monday there's a hearing at 10:00 in our local courthouse here in Chicago to protect and preserve certain evidence we're going to need down the line.

It's just not a matter of throwing the video up and asking the jury, OK, who wins? So, it's a process, but Dr. Dao, to I believe his great credit, has come to understand that he's the guy. He's the guy to stand up for passengers going forward.

Yesterday, Mr. Munoz gave an interview on national television, and he was asked point blank, did Dr. Dao do anything wrong? You know what he did? He hesitated. He hesitated. Maybe he thought, well, where'd that question come from?

But then he regrouped and he said no, he did nothing wrong. No one should have been treated the way he was treated, stating the obvious. But he didn't state it initially. Initially, he backed up his people. And that may be a big part of the problem, the culture. It's us against them.

Well, we're them, and this lawsuit, among other things, hopefully, will create a not just national discussion, but international discussion, on how we're going to be treated going forward. Whether it's a matter of overbooking -- and I think perhaps that's what's going on.

But if I understand what occurred last Sunday here in Chicago it wasn't even a matter of overbooking. It was a matter of, at the last moment, four employees had to get to Louisville so they could go to work the next day on various flights.

[11:10:13]So, we have to figure out -- United has to figure out, the airline industry has to figure out -- what do we do? We take money from people. We let them sit on the airplane, seat belted. Are we really going to just start taking them off then?

Is that what we want as a society or maybe we keep some seats open for that emergency when a pilot, a co-pilot, a flight attendant those get to a destination unexpectedly? Maybe airlines need to start expecting the unexpected, but not at the expense, certainly not at the physical expense, of its paying passengers.

So, our role -- Steve, myself -- going forward, will be to just get the facts and get them out. And we're going to be vocal about the whole subject of what we as a society say passengers are entitled to. Are we going to continue to just be treated like cattle? Bullied? Rude treatment?

We all have enough, oh, I don't know, angst for flying as it is. A lot of stuff out there. But don't treat the people who help make you the corporate entity you are, like Dr. Dao was treated.

So, I'm going to ask Crystal to -- she wanted to address you -- make any statement, and then if I haven't been clear or you have further questions, I'm happy to answer them. OK? Crystal?

CRYSTAL PEPPER, DR. DAVID DAO'S DAUGHTER: On behalf of my dad and my entire family, we would like to express our gratitude for the huge outpouring of prayers, love, and concern that we have received from all over the world these past few days.

We would also like to thank the physicians, the nurses, and all the hospital staff that has taken care of my dad. It has been a very difficult time for our entire family, especially my dad, and we are truly grateful for your support.

What happened to my dad should have never happened to any human being, regardless of the circumstance. We were horrified and shocked and sickened to learn what had happened to him and to see what had happened to him. We hope that in the future nothing like this happens again. Thank you so much again for your support.

DEMETRIO: OK. Yes, sir?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible) "Associated Press." There was talk early on that Mr. Dao perhaps suggested that his race was an issue. Do you believe the fact that he was -- that his race played into this? That he was --

DEMETRIO: I personally do not. I don't think this is a matter of race at all. I'll share with you an e-mail I got, actually late last night, from -- it actually sounds like an Irishman to me on paper -- who suggested that Dr. Dao was the modern-day Asian Rosa Parks. I don't think that's the case at all. I think what happened to Dr. Dao could have happened to any one of us. Yes, sir, in the green tie.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Special question for you --

DEMETRIO: Can you state your name?

CHRIS VANCLEAVE, CBS NEWS: Sure, Chris Vancleave from CBS News. When you saw this video, can you tell us what you were feeling? Just take us to sort of the emotion of what you were feeling when you saw this video that's certainly been replayed countless times now.

[11:15:11]And also if you could give us an update on how your father is doing?

DEMETRIO: Could you do that? Feel free, Crystal. If you don't want to, don't, but --

PEPPER: Like I said earlier, we were completely horrified and shocked at what had happened to my father when we learned of the incident. Seeing it on video made those emotions exacerbated. My dad is healing right now, and that's all I have to say about that.

DEMETRIO: I can tell you that he was discharged late last night. That he did, in fact, suffer a significant concussion as a result of disembarking that plane, and I can also tell you that he had a serious broken nose, injury to the sinuses, and he is going to be undergoing shortly reconstructive surgery in that regard. There have been a lot of inquiries about did he really lose any teeth? Yes, he lost two front teeth, but concussions are sort of an iffy condition. I don't know, you know, ultimately, long term. Hopefully, there will not be any significant repercussions because of that, but he is -- he's shaken. Yes, sir. Yes, sir.

STEVE FORREST, CNN: Tom, Steve Forrest with CNN. Yesterday, Oscar Munoz of United said in his interview that he and his people have reached out to Dr. Dao but have had no luck. Have either of you gentlemen heard from United and spoken directly, even to Munoz or his people or the family?

DEMETRIO: The answer is no.

STEPHEN GOLAN, ATTORNEY FOR UNITED PASSENGER DRAGGED OFF FLIGHT: I have not heard anything, either. To the best of my knowledge -- and -- I'm sorry. I have not heard it from United either and I asked Crystal this morning whether or not her family had voice message or something, and the answer is no.

DEMETRIO: Yes, ma'am.

JESSICA PONG, WORLD JOURNAL: My name is Jessica Pong from the Chinese daily newspaper, "World Journal." I have a question for Crystal. Did your family originally come from China? Because I think he mentions I've been selected because I'm Chinese. So we're just wondering, can you (inaudible) --

PEPPER: My parents emigrated from Vietnam.

PONG: So nothing with China?


DEMETRIO: Yes, sir.

DEREK HENKEL, AFP: Derek Henkel, AFP. I wonder, could you talk a little bit -- I think a lot of us were wondering what was going through your father's mind when he was holding on to the post and saying, "Just kill me, just kill me." Can you talk about kind of -- I know he was on a long international flight. Can you talk about what his mental state was and what he was trying to express there?

DEMETRIO: I think I can, if you don't mind, only because I asked him that question. Here's what he told me. He said that he left Vietnam in 1975 when Saigon fell and he was on a boat, and he said he was terrified. He said that being dragged down the aisle was more horrifying and harrowing than what he experienced in leaving Vietnam. That was his response to me. So, I give it to you. Yes, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Chicago Department of Aviation officers are not United --

DEMETRIO: I'm sorry, you are?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm Vince (inaudible) with CBS 2 News. DEMETRIO: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Chicago Department of Aviation officers are not United employees.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, what is United's responsibility for their actions?

DEMETRIO: Real simple. The airplane is under the control of the pilot. The pilot controls everything. He's the boss. He's actually the captain of the ship and so, Mr. Munoz, smartly, I think, said, you know, we goofed up, United. We goofed up. It's our responsibility.

[11:20:03]Because under the law, the captain of the ship, United Airlines, in this case, is responsible for what occurs on that. Should this forceful, violent -- my word -- exercise of police power have been allowed once it was viewed and seen by the flight crew to continue? No. It shouldn't have.

So, were these three officers, these storm troopers for a moment, doing the right thing? No, not at all. This was not -- this was not a troubled passenger. This was not a nut job. This was not a threat to anybody.

Should he have been unceremoniously dragged out of that plane the way he was? He's a 69-year-old man. Is that really the way we want to treat the aged?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does the city of Chicago bear any responsibility for the officer's actions?

DEMETRIO: Yes. They are employees of the city of Chicago. The city of Chicago is -- yes. Just because United is responsible doesn't mean the city of Chicago isn't also responsible. That will all be sorted out, but more than one can be responsible for a single event. In this case, I believe that's the case. Yes, ma'am.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Inaudible) Fox 32. Do you know anything right now about those officers' use-of-force training? Is that one of the things you'll be looking at? Because it seems there are several instances where they could have used a different tactic to get that gentleman out of the seat.

DEMETRIO: Correct. So, great question. A lot of people have asked, well, why don't you just sue? Why are we fooling around here? Because we're not ready to sue. We're doing our due diligence. When we file our lawsuit, it's going to be because everything, every word, every preposition is in that lawsuit for a reason.

We have been getting calls from people who used to work for the Aviation Department, who trained these officers, and nothing, nothing in the training, I submit, as it will be proven, says in a non- confrontational situation, where the other passengers are in jeopardy, should this type of conduct ever be utilized, or force utilized. So, there you go.

PHIL LEBEAU, CNBC: Quick question. Phil Lebeau with CNBC. Do you view this situation as an isolated incident, or you say you've heard from other United employees, do you look at this airline as having a culture of disrespecting customers?

DEMETRIO: Well, that's a different question. I mean, there is clearly, clearly -- I have learned enough from people out there who have contacted us that, yes, I would say there is a culture of disrespect, of rudeness, but what's unfortunately occurred here in Dr. Dao's case is rudeness, bullying customers, has gone the next step now to physical injury.

So, I don't know if it's society as a whole that everybody's just angry. I don't know what it is, but this is a doctor who was originally asked to buy a voucher, you know, get a free ticket, whatever, and he said, no, I have a practice, I have to go work tomorrow and treat patients, which is true.

So, he was singled out for reasons maybe we're going to find out in this discovery process of the lawsuit, but I don't know what they are. I've already answered what I believe they aren't. But the fact of the matter is, yes, there are a lot of angry people out there, United customers, United employees.

So, yes, it's something that Mr. Munoz and his people need to look at, because the public relations problems that they have aren't just limited to this video. Yes, ma'am.

[11:25:02]LEAH POPE, ABC 7 CHICAGO: Leah Pope, ABC 7 here in Chicago. Actually a question for Ms. Dao, if you don't mind. So many people have learned about your father through this video. What do you want people to know about your father, who he is, not just these few seconds of video that we've seen?

PEPPER: Thank you for your question. My dad is a wonderful father. He has raised with my mother five great children who have gone on to do great things and will continue to do great things. He is a loving grandfather. And at the end of the day, that is the person who we are trying to protect and take care of. Thank you.


PEPPER: As my immediate family and my husband and children are here in Chicago, we are deeply affected by it. Our lives have been interrupted and our normalcy is not where it was on Sunday morning. Furthermore, my siblings, who all have thriving careers and are in graduate schools, their lives have been interrupted.

And as some of you may know, they're in the health care field, and they are trying their best to do their job without further interruption from local media, whomever it might be, stepping into their lives right now.

DEMETRIO: That handsome gentleman in the silver hair. LARRY ELLEN, FOX NEWS: Thanks. Larry Ellen from Fox News. Tom, your lawsuit may have long-term consequences, but what would you like to see in the short term from United, from other airlines, from Oscar Munoz?

DEMETRIO: Well, I think short term, they need to -- I mean, Mr. Munoz said, you know, there's going to be an internal investigation, et cetera. Right now, all airlines, they need to come out and figure out this overbooking situation as it exists today. And whether that's a how high will they go?

And eventually, somebody's going to say, yes, I'll leave. They've got to figure out a way short term to solve what I'm calling the over- overbooking situation that we as consumers are being faced with. So, I think that's the biggest problem.

I don't think anybody has to tell any airline, any police force, to not do what we all saw on the video. I think in the short term. That will never happen again. I'm hopeful.

ELLEN: As a follow-up, do you see yourself going forward on a battery theory, infliction of emotional distress?

DEMETRIO: Well, that's all part of it. I mean, under our system, the elements of damages include physical injuries, mental injuries, and emotional injuries. So, yes, I mean, we don't know the extent of them, so I have no clue where that's going to lead us as far as Dr. Dao goes.

And again, I stand here and I say I hope he makes a full and complete recovery. That's the hope. But the fact of the matter is, these elements of damages, the airlines need to be aware of, because if they continue to physically abuse us, that's going to be problematic. Yes, ma'am.


DEMETRIO: And you are?

PIPE: Sorry, Marney Pipe with "The Daily Herald." The city had indicated that in some way, Dr. Dao had represented some sort of a security threat. Do you have any idea why they might have said that?

DEMETRIO: I missed that altogether.

PIPE: The city had indicated that there was some sort of security threat possibly posed by Dr. Dr. Do you have any idea why they might have said that?

DEMETRIO: You know, that's not helping their PR image either, is it? They're -- no! That's ridiculous! What would his conspiracy be? Conspiracy to do what?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Could you talk about the city's response?

DEMETRIO: Pardon me? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Could you talk about the city's response? You talked about United's response. Could you talk about the city and the airport's response?

DEMETRIO: I understand there's going to be in the chamber of the aldermen today a discussion with the Aviation Department people. So, I have not heard a response from the city, so I don't know what their response is. It can't be good.

VANCLEAVE: Was your point where your client could have --

DEMETRIO: You are?

VANCLEAVE: Chris Vancleave from CBS.


VANCLEAVE: Was there a point, not to diminish or take away what happened at all, but there are many people that have asked, what if he had just complied with the officers? At a certain point, was there a moment where he could have complied with the uniformed officers --