Illinois Democratic House hopeful John Tree, on Chicago O'Hare /D.C. United flight 448 Monday night, helped subdue an unruly passenger, according to his campaign. Tree, a colonel in the Air Force Reserves, was in his military fatigues.
Tree, running in the north suburban tenth congressional district primary, commutes to the Pentagon for his reserve duty.
Tree seated in coach, was "asked by a flight attendant sometime after takeoff to move from his coach seat to first class in order to stand between her and a passenger who had been extremely verbally abusive to flight personnel and other passengers," his campaign said in a release. MSNBC "Hardball" host Chris Matthews--who attended the funeral mass of Maggie Daley in Chicago earlier in the day--was one of the passengers in first class during the incident.
"The passenger in question was reportedly shouting profanities, kicking the aircraft walls and making threats. At one point, the passenger got out of his seat, and jabbed Tree several times in the abdomen as he stood between the passenger's seat and the galley.
"Tree, with the help of a number of other passengers in the first class cabin, subdued the passenger and returned him to his seat. Tree sat next to the passenger for the remainder of the flight to prevent further disturbances. The passenger responded with a tirade of verbal abuse toward Tree, the airline and the United States military.
"Immediately upon arrival, uniformed law enforcement personnel boarded the flight and removed the passenger in question from the aircraft," Tree's campaign said.
FOOTNOTES: I contacted Matthews and in an e-mail Matthews confirmed the version of events provided by the Tree campaign.
Another passenger on the plane--a congressional chief of staff seated in the first row of coach-- told Chicago Sun-Times political writer Abdon M. Pallasch he witnessed the episode with an unobstructed view--and saw no jabs to the abdomen and no physical contact whatsoever.
Tree spokesman Peter Giangreco--who was not on the plane-- told me it would not have been possible for someone seated in coach to see what happened.