“TSA Took My Baby!” Hoax?

Hi Folks — On Friday I wrote a piece hdsdsnayib
based on a blog by a mom who said the TSA took her baby son while frisking her — and him, I guess. I said it sounded like the mom was hysterical and the TSA employees were rude.

The TSA then released a video of the incident which certainly makes it look as if the baby was never taken from the mom. It also looks like they did make the mom wait longer than necessary to be re-frisked. In other words: It sort of seems like the mom was hysterical, and the TSA employees were slow.

The mom’s original rambling blog is here. Her rambling apology is here. And mine is right here: I’m very sorry I trusted a blog written by a woman who was obviously distraught. Next thing you know I’ll trust a boy in a balloon! — Lenore

47 Responses to “TSA Took My Baby!” Hoax?

  1. Michelle October 19, 2009 at 11:34 pm #

    sh*t happens.

  2. Will October 19, 2009 at 11:58 pm #

    The sad thing is, it’s all too easy to believe stories like this, because the TSA is this sort of black-box security theater with no accountability and no transparent regulations. Which of these sound like hoaxes?

    TSA forces a woman to remove a nipple ring.

    TSA agent decides a man is a threat because he did not remove his sunglasses.

    TSA forces travelers heading to baggage claim to freeze for 30 minutes with no justification.

    TSA confiscates baby formula from mother with double mastectomy.

    If you guessed the last one, you’re right, it’s the only situation I couldn’t find credible evidence of actually happening. That’s one I jiggered from a recent report on the IRS.

  3. Michelle October 19, 2009 at 11:59 pm #

    Distraught wasn’t even the right word. Delusional?

  4. Jan S October 20, 2009 at 12:05 am #

    I’m gonna have to send her a link to this blog Lenore, so she can really get whipped up into a state of utter distress! 😉

  5. Uly October 20, 2009 at 12:06 am #

    The sad thing is, it’s all too easy to believe stories like this, because the TSA is this sort of black-box security theater with no accountability and no transparent regulations.

    Exactly. The TSA is taking away our ability to free-range ourSELVES, much less our kids!

  6. Jan S October 20, 2009 at 12:09 am #

    It all started with those hijackings back in the 1960s and has snowballed since then. I remember the days before even metal detectors, it was like going to the train station back then.

  7. Michele October 20, 2009 at 12:10 am #

    We believe stories like this because many of us have been manhandled by TSA and believe our personal rights are being taken away under the veil of ‘safety.’

  8. Leila October 20, 2009 at 12:10 am #

    I actually think that objecting to the TSA IS a free-range issue.

    It’s like we all want to be bubble-wrapped from terrorists, to the point that is beyond common sense and paralyzing everyone.

    Just as the thinking is that to prevent ONE theoretical kidnapping we have to immobilize ALL children, we have acquiesced in the thought that to prevent ANY hypothetical or imaginable terrorist act we can remove people’s freedoms in a way that doesn’t have accountability.

    So I would side with the hysterical mothers if forced, but beg everyone to be civil and have common sense!

  9. Jan S October 20, 2009 at 12:11 am #

    (maybe hysterical mom is angling for an interview on Larry King, or even better a reality show of her own)

  10. Jan S October 20, 2009 at 12:13 am #

    I, for one, am a little fearful of flying. I really hate the idea of plummeting to Earth from 30,000 ft up. I don’t find the security actually much of an inconvenience. They’ve really streamlined it. I do think the shoe removal is taking things too far.

  11. Jo-Ann October 20, 2009 at 12:15 am #

    As always, there is fault in both sides.

    Should TSA have allowed her to remove the clip and walk through? Yes

    Should she have remained calm about a situation that seemed rather benign? Yes

    I live in Canada and my 6 yr old son sees a specialist in the States to correct his foot. We have now flown internationally five times with him in a full leg cast (top of the thigh to tip of the toes). Let me tell you, this is no easy task. He is too big for a stroller so he uses crutches. He can not wear his special cast shoe or use his crutches through the X-ray, nor can I carry him. He has to hop and hobble alone. Once through, we are seated in the special room to await some sort of test presumably to make sure I have not made a cocaine cast and put it on my son. Once the test comes back negative, we are on our way.

    These people are merely doing their job. They did not single us out to give us grief. We both are calm and have only had employees who are helpful and caring.

    People need to stop blowing things out of proportion.

  12. Jan S October 20, 2009 at 12:22 am #

    Probably hysteroMom initiated some of the problems with this incident. I’ll bet anything she was stressed and showed her irritation.

    I always act very deferential in the airport security line. Never joke and don’t try to make any small talk. Courtesy and humility goes a long way. Never have had a bit of trouble.

  13. David October 20, 2009 at 12:44 am #

    Reading the apology, she’s not apologizing to the TSA. She’s apologizing for being emotional. She still claims that her story is true, and that the video the TSA posted is incomplete.

  14. Waltz October 20, 2009 at 12:55 am #

    Here’s the comment I posted on the TSA blog:
    I think the fact that so many of us, myself included, were ready to believe this speaks volumes about the TSA’s reputation. There have been legitimate issues with the TSA and TSA agents and at first glance this story seemed like the logical progression of the invasive and unthinking actions some TSA agents have already committed. It is a shame the woman misrepresened what happened. It is also a shame that the TSA has done things that make such a story believable.

  15. Uly October 20, 2009 at 12:55 am #


  16. Tana October 20, 2009 at 1:23 am #

    lol @ uly’s link. thanks for the chuckle.

  17. anon October 20, 2009 at 2:10 am #

    I don’t see the point in calling her “hysterical.” It’s disparaging, and concerned mothers are usually disparaged in that way (unless of course, something bad happens, then she was “negligent”). I’d be emotional too if concerned about my kids. Why can’t you trust someone who is distraught? And incidentally, she is still claiming that it’s true, that TSA is not telling the truth. I don’t think we can know.

  18. Mimi October 20, 2009 at 2:31 am #

    Did I miss the link to the TSA video?

  19. Karen October 20, 2009 at 3:54 am #

    To Mimi:

    If you look at the TSA Video (I think a link is provided on the previous post about this and on “XanaxMom’s ” own blog), it clearly shows there is no lapse in the video time and this just did not occur. Her child is never out of site, she is never on the phone crying to her hubby and mother and she leaves the area pissed off, not hysterical. It simply did not take place as she describes. In fact, SHE put her own baby in the stroller though her “apology” seems to claim otherwise.

    I’m a Maryland girl, too, and I’m ashamed she is from my area frankly. We have more common sense then that!

    Again, not that TSA doesn’t have issues (per my last post) but in the video I saw you see people being helpful, helping someone with their wheelchair, smiling at their customers, etc. It must be hard to be in customer service with customers who don’t want you to interfere with them and who are always running late.

    PS. I’m not trying to pick on people who have real anxiety and depression as my Xanax comment may imply. I just think her explanation of her “Emergency Xanax” along with her long and crazy rant are terribly funny!

  20. HappyNat October 20, 2009 at 4:27 am #


    I’m sorry you suffer from panic attacks, it must be very difficult in certain situations. However, my sympathy for people with any condition end when they, according to all appearances, wrongfully accuse people of snatching her precious baby away from her. She may have been stressed, scared, and pissed, but that is no reason to accuse someone falsely.

    People aren’t picking on her because of her condition they are picking on her because of her actions. And I will pick on her because she hates capital letters.

  21. cerebral October 20, 2009 at 4:32 am #

    That’s one of the problems of having a world where anyone can write news or opinion without having it vetted by others. Unedited tripe becomes “fact”.

    Every now and then I catch “All the Presidents Men” on television and laugh at how different things are now. The Washington Post wouldn’t even dream of naming names in their articles until they had a TON of corroboration.

    These days, the boy doesn’t even have to be seen getting into the balloon before he’s a physically impossible 7000 feet in the air.

  22. Amity October 20, 2009 at 4:47 am #

    I work for an airline and I was just saying the other day that normal people seem to lose their minds when they step into an airport!

  23. Sara October 20, 2009 at 4:53 am #

    And incidentally, she is still claiming that it’s true, that TSA is not telling the truth. I don’t think we can know.

    Au contraire, we can know. She made that claim (and, specifically, she said, “in the video, it looks as though my son is playing happily in his stroller while i am being searched with a wand. obviously this is the big discrepancy with my story, since he was not in my sight at that time”) on Saturday, after the TSA made this responsive post on Friday, but before the update on Sunday.

    It’s true that the video posted on Friday was edited — but it was edited for length and, well, boringness, not to mislead. They’ve since added an update, with 9 separate videos, showing the complete feeds from each of the cameras that caught any view of any part of the incident, from the time she first appears in a camera’s view until she’s out of its range. They’re complete feeds, without any gaps, and the timestamps match as she moves from one camera’s view to the next. Her son is in her arms from the time she picks him up after putting his stroller on the conveyor belt until she sits down with him on her lap in the screening area; after he’s patted down while seated on her lap, she, not the TSA agent, picks him up again and puts him in the stroller and secures him there. And there he stays, during the entirety of her screening; there are a couple of times when the TSA agent performing the screening obscures the camera’s view of the child, but not for more than 2-5 seconds at a time, which is longer than it took her to buckle him in in the first place, and as soon as the agent moves you can see that the child is still buckled in the stroller. After her screening, you can see her pick up her stuff and get everything together to leave, and then in another camera’s view, you can see a distant back view of the screening, and watch her assemble the stuff and exit the screening area completely, pushing the kid in the stroller. There is just no time for the events she described to have occurred. The timestamps match, and there are no gaps in the movements of other people as there would be if footage were cut, and if someone is good enough at CGI to fake this, they aren’t making government wages.

    I agree that “hysterical” is often used as a disparaging label disproportionately applied to women. I have another label for her, and that is “Liar”; if she finds that disparaging, that’s just too bad.

    I’m no great fan of the TSA myself; I think the myriad regulations give people an illusion of increased safety without the actuality, at the expense of personal liberty and dignity, even when they’re properly applied, and I agree that there are abuses and certainly instances of insensitivity and a lack of common sense. The TSA employees may indeed have been very rude to her, which the video wouldn’t disclose, and it definitely appears that they were glacially slow in getting around to her screening, but that’s not the gist of what she’s claiming, and what she is claiming is frankly fraudulent. That distracts attention from actual abuses, and I find it deplorable.

  24. Nicolas Martin October 20, 2009 at 7:29 am #

    Perhaps this hysterical liar makes it clearer why men fear false rape and child abuse charges.

  25. Jan S October 20, 2009 at 7:30 am #

    I think, actually, that the security at airports does prevent recurrences of previous tragedies and hostage situations. I lament the more innocent times as much as anyone, but there were dozens of hijackings, culminating with 9/11, sadly meriting all this security. I wouldn’t be so quick to say that it merely gives a false sense of security. It, in fact, prevents real dangers.

    All in all I’ve been impressed at how efficient they’ve gotten. Yes, some of the employees seem rude, but if you are business-like and courteous it really helps.

    Another point is that one must leave enough time when getting to the airport. Chronic late-niks drive me up the wall. They stress themselves out by their tardy habits.

  26. Mae Mae October 20, 2009 at 9:13 am #

    I think hysterical is the wrong word not neccessarily because it is disparaging but because I don’t think it fits her behavior. Again, in the video she looks annoyed and irritated, not like she was panicking or in fear for herself or her child. I think she’s using her anxiety as an excuse for her bad behavior. In the video you can see that her mouth is running but by her own admission a lot of that was her dropping the f-bomb at the agents. She was not reaching for her child or crying or trying to get away as I feel a panicked person may have reacted. Obviously, every person is different but I think she lied about more than just being separated from her child.

  27. Sandy October 20, 2009 at 10:07 am #

    It’s like two different stories. Never saw her make a phone call. Baby in sight the whole time. I feel badly for her…but I think her recollection is skewed.


  28. phoenix mattress October 20, 2009 at 12:29 pm #

    my niece used to work for the TSA, and she told me that mistakes happen, and they are embarrassing ones. this sounds like one of those times, but cameras can lie, you know.

  29. Shannon October 20, 2009 at 12:53 pm #

    Hysterical might not be the right word. Liar, however, is.

    Yes, the TSA are big jerks. But you don’t get a free pass through security because you’re carrying a baby. I hate this entitlement attitude that the Mommy crowd has. Everyone else has to put up with the same crap when they fly; why in the world would she think that she could get away with telling some crazy story about phone calls and her baby getting taken away from her, in a heavily surveilled area, just because she was mad about getting searched? Ridiculous, and stupid, too.

  30. Noel October 20, 2009 at 4:42 pm #

    Calling someone — especially a woman — “hysterical” is just never appropriate, given the history of that word and its deeply sexist implications. See abbyjean’s exploration of this term on FWD/Forward at:


  31. anon October 20, 2009 at 9:51 pm #

    Entitled mommy crowd? Give me a break.

  32. Jan S October 20, 2009 at 9:52 pm #

    If the shoe has tits…;)

  33. Shannon October 20, 2009 at 10:50 pm #

    Anonymous? Give me a break.

    @LOL at Jan. Hysterical is the right word if it fits, regardless of the person’s sex. There’s a point at which demanding that women not get called some word becomes sexist itself, because of the implication that women are delicate and need some sort of special linguistic privilege. We should be working towards a point where words are neutral, and the only way to get there is to apply the right words to the right things. I can see why Lenore applied this word here–mostly because of the writer’s prose style–but, as I’ve said, the real word for a person who makes up a story about her baby getting torn from her arms because she’s mad that she had to submit to the same onerous and annoying security procedures as everyone else is “liar.”

  34. Matthew Ellis October 20, 2009 at 11:18 pm #


    So these videos can be released by to the TSA when they want? You should really encourage them to thereby release all videos as matter of course!

    If that can choose to release some videos, it doesn’t seem that big a push to have them release all videos instead of only cherry picking the ones that back up what they want to say.

  35. Jan S October 20, 2009 at 11:52 pm #

    Why would anyone want to watch these videos unless they are an insomniac?

  36. anon October 21, 2009 at 2:56 am #

    You can call people names all you want, but it’s childish and not very professional either for a published writer with a blog that I’m sure she wants to be taken seriously. She may have lied, exaggerated, or embellished. I still don’t think we know. I’m only objecting to the dragging out of typically sexist put downs for women. Bashing the entire class of mothers based on one woman is just stupid and belies your own prejudices.

  37. Noel October 21, 2009 at 8:10 am #

    Objecting to the sexist implications of a word does not imply that “women are delicate and need some sort of special linguistic privilege”. Would you say that an objection to calling an African-American person a “stupid n—–” is implying that “African-Americans are delicate and need some sort of special linguistic privilege”? If you’d bother to read the post I linked to, you’d find an interesting and detailed discussion of the history of “hysterical”. Bandying this term about is just sloppy.

    Anyway, I only wanted to bring that up to suggest that Lenore reconsider the use of this word, not to detract from the original post. I think it’s possible to say, as Lenore also did, that the woman in question was “distraught”, and to suggest that her story might not jibe with the facts, without throwing in a sexist term with an awful, awful history. (Again, read the post I linked to above if you don’t get it.)

  38. Heather October 21, 2009 at 9:51 am #

    I have flown many times and I have never hd any trouble with TSA or any form of security. I have always followed directions, checked my hand luggae for items that shuld not be there, and the one time I was asked for a hand search of my luggage I went to the table opened my bag and was done with it.
    It was not a personal affront. I opened my bag, watched the man brose through it for 45 seconds and he handed it back with a smile. NO harm, no foul.
    I am worried that people are so upset by TSA and security. If we all just followed the simple rules that are posted half of the issue that arise wouldn’t happen.

  39. Jan S October 21, 2009 at 10:33 am #

    Noel, a lot of people are getting sick of the level of political correctness that you expect. You sound like you are from Berkley or something. It’s so boring and uptight. Quit it okay?

  40. Noel October 21, 2009 at 4:01 pm #

    You’re right, Jan. Thanks for your comment on behalf of “a lot of people”. It’s better to be insensitive to the meanings and effects of our words and actions. Let people fend for themselves, and if they get offended by unequal treatment, too bad. Words are only words, after all, and have no connection to reality. And, like, what was all that women’s suffrage, civil rights activism, campaigning for gay marriage, etc., anyway — just a lot of whining by people who really ought to just suck it up.

    Thanks for your enlightening commentary.

    (Is it also “political correctness” to suggest that you pay attention to your own spelling? I don’t live in Berkeley, no. Nor Berkley, wherever that may be.)

  41. Jan S October 21, 2009 at 11:27 pm #

    Is it sensitive and unoffensive, Noel, to correct someones spelling on a hastily written blog post? You are truly a typical person of your ilk, I must say. Your ‘tolerance’ only extends to those who agree with your interpretation of reality.

  42. Nicolas Martin October 21, 2009 at 11:32 pm #

    Heather, the first duty of free people is not to be meekly obedient to government authority. Your quiet compliance would be welcomed by any despotic government.

  43. Noel October 22, 2009 at 2:20 am #

    Jan, I began with a good faith objection to the use of a loaded, sexist term, with an insightful essay to back it up. Shannon said that my objection suggested women were vulnerable and needed to be protected, and I responded by questioning the implications of that argument. Your response was dismissive and insulting. So now when I point out that you misspelled a word in your insult, your feeling are hurt?

    Maybe language is not that big a deal to you. Maybe you don’t find that words have effects, or you don’t feel it’s necessary to be thoughtful about the use of language. That’s your prerogative. But here in a discussion on a blog post is a strange place to be pushing that point of view. Your message is essentially “just shut up”.

    I think it’s worth belaboring the point about Lenore’s choice of this word because it may help us tease out some different strands of what was going on in this incident. Counterfactuals aren’t terribly reliable, but what if the person in the TSA incident had been a man? Would “hysterical” have jumped to mind immediately? Your first contribution to this discussion was an obviously intentionally provocative comment about “tits” — would you have said the same about a man? What kind of behavior would a man have had to have displayed in order to be called “hysterical”?

    And is it possible, do you think, that the person in this situation was judged differently, in part, because of her sex? Even if she did overreact, even if her telling of the incident was way off base, does that mean that in dismissing her we should excuse ourselves from considering the meaning in our words? If we dismiss a woman who is wrong as “hysterical”, are we not implying, or at least leaving open the possibility of implication, that part of the reason she was wrong was that she was a woman?

    I just don’t see the point in dismissing all of these questions as “political correctness” — any point, that is, other than saying “shut up” in so many words. If you have some substantive response, great. But otherwise, what are you trying to accomplish?

  44. Trisha October 27, 2009 at 2:16 am #

    My biggest issue with this whole situation are the differences in the stories. Where are the phone calls she made? Why aren’t they in the video? Would I believe that a company edited a video to help save themselves? Yes. Yes I would.

    Look. The TSA is filled with seriously grumpy, bad communicating people. I have encountered perfectly pleasant, helpful members of their staff. But for the most part I have been treated horribly. No smiles, no explanations, nothing. It’s ridiculous. I hate flying with my children b/c of the TSA. When I fly alone I never have problems. But if my children come with me, problems arise left and right.

    So before everyone discounts this mother for being hysterical or rambling, take a breath. It’s only been a week and not all the details are available yet. She may have overreacted but the TSA still could have been in the wrong.

  45. Jenny October 27, 2009 at 12:47 pm #

    Hey, TSA is victim of the recession too, she waited so long because obviously they could be short staffed, duh!

  46. Jason November 26, 2010 at 2:57 am #

    The very fact that a federal law enforcement officer can inflict so much fear in a law-abiding citizen shows something is very wrong in America.

    What if they HAD taken her infant. What could she have done about it??? NOTHING!
    THAT’S the real issue here.


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