REPUTATION CASE HISTORY:
Curious Christmas Calamity of Victoria Osteen
Written by Rick Archer, July 2007
Headline: Pastor Joel Osteen's wife
in flight disturbance, asked to deplane
ABC Channel 13 News, Houston, Texas
Posted on December 20, 2005
A dispute that involved the wife of Houston's most famous pastor,
Joel Osteen, and a Continental Airlines flight attendant ended up
delaying a flight for hours Monday. And now, Victoria Osteen's
actions on that flight are in the spotlight. The Osteens run the
largest church in the nation, so passengers on a Continental flight
were shocked Monday when Mrs. Osteen was removed from that flight
after a disturbance.
Taking time off from the high profile
hustle and bustle of running a mega-church, Lakewood Church
Pastor Joel Osteen and his family boarded Continental flight
1602 Monday morning at Houston's big airport. They were
bound for a Christmas vacation skiing the slopes in Vail,
Their trip was delayed and so was the entire flight by
almost two hours. Fellow passengers blame the popular
Osteens, specifically Joel's wife, Victoria.
According to passenger accounts, the Osteens were sitting in
first class. Soon after the plane's door was closed, the FBI
says Victoria Osteen was removed following what Continental
would call only a disturbance. The Osteens' spokesman
confirms it involved a flight attendant, but that's all.
However, one passenger tells Eyewitness News she was alerted
to the front of the plane when she heard a commotion.
"She violently ran towards the cockpit, scaring everyone
around her," said passenger Knicky Van Slyke. "Everyone was
terrified about what was going on. And a bunch of flight
attendants ran up and had to restrain her. She was banging
on the door."
"The door of the cockpit?" we asked.
Further accounts suggest the
misunderstanding occurred when the Osteens boarded the first-class
cabin and Victoria Osteen noticed a liquid spill on her seat. She
asked one flight attendant to clean it, but the attendant was unable
to do so at the time because passengers were boarding. Osteen then
asked another flight attendant. That attendant was also busy and
instead gave Osteen napkins to clean it herself.
What happened next differs depending on who's
telling the tale. According to two written complaints filed by the
attendants to union officials, Osteen became angry and barged toward
the cockpit saying that she "wanted to speak to someone in charge."
One attendant tried to stop her and she pushed the attendant aside,
according to the reports. A second attendant stepped forward and
Osteen grabbed that attendant by the wrist and engaged in an
argument outside of the cockpit.
Touching a flight attendant is a federal
offense, according to the Federal Aviation Administration
Passengers say Victoria was removed first.
Joel and the children followed. Meantime, everyone waited.
"They unloaded all the luggage to get their luggage and deplaned
her, Joel, and the kids," said passenger Dawn Dixon.
Passenger Chad Clay said, "They kept
telling us they were waiting on some passengers to find
their luggage underneath in the plane, and it was going to
be delayed for looking for that luggage."
According to the Transportation Security Administration,
federal air marshals were never involved. Local authorities
also know nothing of this event. Continental would not
The Osteens' spokesman denies a physical altercation, denies
Victoria ever banged on the cockpit door, and says she left
on her own.
"The account of the event which has come to our attention is
inaccurate and overblown. The misunderstanding was minor and
was resolved when Victoria voluntarily removed herself from
the situation," read the statement.
The FBI says it was not voluntary. Though agents are not
investigating, they will review the incident as the Osteens
enjoy their Colorado vacation.
The Osteens' spokesman says they took another flight to
Nobody has been charged. As for the FBI's involvement, we're
told it's standard procedure for them to review all
passenger removal incidents. According to Continental, this
one is a closed case.
Pastor Joel Osteen preaches to an average of 40,000 people a
week at Lakewood Church services. (According the Wikipedia,
as of 2007, Lakewood is the
largest and fastest growing church in the United States with
more than 52,000 attendees during its English and Spanish
Lakewood opened in the
former home of the Rockets, Compaq Center, back in July. It
took $90 million and a year and a half of renovations.
Osteen's ministry is taped and aired around the world.
Editor's Note: There were many comments posted on this
story. Here are three:
There are certain facts that are known.
The FBI is involved. This doesn't happen with every
altercation onboard an aircraft. They only get called, and
determine it is necessary to show up, if the matter cannot
be handled appropriately by other parties.
Another fact: the aircraft was on the ground and parked at
the gate. This means that there were other people besides
the flight attendants that could have resolved a problem. It
is a reasonable assumption that this didn't happen, because,
as I said above, the FBI got called.
Whether the conduct rises to the level of a criminal offense
(interfering with a crew member in the performance of their
duties, assault, or anything else that may be considered) if
a question left to the appropriate parties, and I make no
comment about that.
Bad behavior, however, is what set this chain of events in
motion. Draw reasonable inferences from the facts.
Posted by: Fly Girl | Dec 22, 2005 11:20:58 AM
As a flight attendant myself, I can assure y'all that
something MUST have taken place to escalate this situation.
The FBI would not have been called. We know how to handle
situations even if it is to get another F/A to take over
when personalities get in the way. It IS a federal offense
not to comply with a flight attendant's instructions. I find
that, being as it was a spill, most F/As that I know would
just wipe it up and let it go. Mrs. Osteen must have made
some comment to the F/A. We just can't throw people off a
jet for a whim. We would then be in trouble. It must be
warranted. The other side is Mrs. Osteen is not God nor is
Joel. She may have been rude but she is also human. She
should admit her mistake and apologize and then we all,
including God, will forgive her.
Posted by: John | Dec 23, 2005 5:57:09 PM
It's absolutely ridiculous how the majority of people jump
to conclusions without themselves personally being involved.
I believe in our society we are so quick to judge, and so
quick to see humble people make mistakes. No one is perfect.
Despite what the truth really is, you all should be ashamed
of being busy bodies and spreading gossip that really isn't
yours to be spread around. As a people we thrive on knowing
other people's (especially celebrities) business and dirty
laundry. We DON'T really know the truth of the matter. I for
one, do not want to be like EVERYONE else and most of you
reading, and speculate and make up my own stories. I believe
the Osteens have done PLENTY for our society, they have
given multitudes faith and hope, that's more then I can say
for most of you, who are you to judge anyway?
Even if the altercation was Mrs. Osteens fault or if it was
a mutual altercation, I believe everyone is entitled
to a bad day, every time you got mad, would you want
everyone else to read about it and comment on it?
Posted by: Josh | Dec 26, 2005 1:34:10 AM
written by Rick Archer
I wish to start my
commentary by saying that I have never met the
Osteen family, know next to nothing about them, nor
do I have any particular axe to grind.
I chose this story for one simple reason: it goes
straight to the heart of our discourse on
My guess is that Victoria Osteen lost her temper.
If I were to speculate, I imagine she was exhausted.
Perhaps she had being going 24/7 trying to get all
the preparations finished for the Christmas Holidays
and her family's trip as well as taking care of her
duties to her church. Mrs. Osteen undoubtedly
saw some sort of mess on the plane and asked a Flight Attendant
to handle it. And maybe the Flight
Attendant was being pulled in several directions at
once and was a little short on patience herself.
Perhaps the Flight Attendant said something sharp in
return and Mrs. Osteen lost her temper.
Suddenly the smallest spark turned into a forest
We ALL lose our temper sometimes.
Unfortunately, since the Osteens represent a huge
church, they are held to a much higher standard.
They are expected to be saintly.
And guessing from the report, at this particular
moment, Mrs. Osteen did not behave saintly. As a
result, the news media hammered away to ascertain if
Mrs. Osteen was behaving hypocritically. That
explains why this became news.
QUOTE ONE (from the
Thomas Friedman article):
"The persistence of memory in electronic form makes second
chances harder to come by," writes Seidman. "In the
Information age, life has no chapters or closets; you can
leave nothing behind and you have nowhere to hide your
skeletons. Your past is your present."
Your Past is Present...
I have little doubt this is a story that will follow
Mrs. Osteen for the rest of her life. And I
have no doubt she would love for this story to go
away. But it is not going to happen.
There are countless Internet stories
that refer to this incident.
TWO (from COMMENT THREE above):
I believe everyone is entitled
to a bad day, every time you got mad, would you want
everyone else to read about it and comment on it?
your temper is one thing, but delaying a plane for
two hours is another level altogether. To her
credit, Mrs. Osteen did at least attempt to present her side of the
December 21, 2005
I know that many of you have seen the recent
news report on our trip to Colorado. Let me
begin by saying that I have received so many of
your emails and notes encouraging me and
expressing your love and support. Each one of
you means so much to me and I love you all
Regardless of how some have portrayed the
situation, please know that it was truly a minor
misunderstanding and did not escalate into what
you saw or read in the news. Contrary to those
reports it was my choice to remove myself from
the situation. Nonetheless, it was a most
unfortunate event and I truly regret that it
The last thing I would ever want to do is let
any of you down. And I promise you that I did
not act in any way that would cast a bad light
on you, my family, Lakewood Church or our Lord
Jesus Christ. I value the position that God has
placed me in and I can assure you that I will
always walk in love and integrity. While I am
not perfect, I will always seek to be a
peacemaker and seek the high road.
As many of you have told me, I know that God has
me in the palm of His hand. My confidence in God
is stronger than ever—and I know that He is
faithful to His promises.
Thank you for standing with me and, in spite of
what you’ve heard, thank you for believing the
best in me. I know that God causes all things to
work together for our good— and I truly believe
that when faced with adversities we all emerge
better and stronger than when we were before.
During this season, as we celebrate the birth of
our Savior Jesus Christ, Joel and I wish you and
your family a very Merry Christmas. May peace
and happiness embrace all of us and may 2006 be
your best year ever.
Unfortunately, this public response in the days
after the incident did little to defuse much of the
It is rare for someone to lose their temper like
this for no reason at all, particularly a woman
known for her grace in public. It is not hard
to imagine that someone - the Flight Attendant for
example - said something particularly sharp to
ignite her anger. Surely Mrs. Osteen surely must have
had her side of the story!
But her public statement left
a lot to be desired. It was vague and short on
Here is what one person
had to say about the response:
Osteen) seems to be denying any fault at all.
Despite the claims of witnesses and the FBI.
What is glaringly missing is an apology to the
other passengers who were delayed by her little
temper tantrum. I can understand her not wanting
to sit on a wet seat, but it could have been
sopped up and had a blanket thrown over it to
make the seat a little more comfortable.
Victoria offers no explanations, just denials.
Millions of people manage to fly every year and
only a select few manage to get themselves
tossed off a plane.
Victoria seems to be one in a million."
read for yourself
REPUTATION DAMAGE CONTROL
POINT THREE: I believe
because Mrs. Osteen failed to mount much of a defense, if anything
people began to wonder if all those cruel things said about her were
really true. It occurred to me I have never in my life seen a
more one-sided story.
No one loses their temper like that for no reason!
While I was writing this
story, it crossed my mind that there might be several reasons why
Mrs. Osteen's reply was so muted. So I started to wonder about
believe the most obvious reason was Mrs. Osteen wanted to avoid any
chance of a law suit. Speaking your mind in print
invites people to take you to court EVEN WHEN YOU TELL THE TRUTH.
Our legal system is a joke. There seem to be few penalties and curbs
to filing frivolous lawsuits. After you finish defending
yourself, even if you WIN the lawsuit, after the
lawyers get through picking you clean, you LOSE.
I believe we will never get Mrs. Osteen's TRUE side of the story
because some lawyer got involved.
I believe there might be a
second reason as well. Is it possible we never heard Mrs.
Osteen's TRUE side of the story because someone decided it wasn't
Christian to speak up?
The Christian thing to do would be 'turn the other cheek'
or 'a soft answer turneth away wrath'.
Perhaps. But then the Bible was written long before
While I believe it is correct that a soft answer turneth
away wrath, you have to wonder if something a little more concrete
would have helped things.
As I have said repeatedly, this was a one-sided story deeply slanted
against Mrs. Osteen. Yes, Mrs. Osteen did apologize, but it
didn't seem to do any good. Why not? Because her
explanation was so vague it seemed like she had something to hide.
In this case a soft answer PLUS a detailed explanation of how things
went wrong along with the apology would have been more effective.
This perception became a reality... "She didn't deny what happened,
so it must be true!"
Because no one understood what made Mrs. Osteen angry and there were
no details, rumors were allowed to cause untold damage and public
sentiment was allowed to rage unchecked.
The more I think about this story, the more curious I get.
The story of Victoria Osteen's
airplane incident is a powerful real-life tale that validates the
major premise of Thomas Friedman's article and Dov Seidman's book -
a person cannot afford to behave poorly in public.
the power of Internet in this day and age, what should have been a
small incident was magnified way out of proportion. Why cooler
heads did not prevail on the airplane is a mystery. Leaving
the airplane made this incident look even more serious than it
Because no witness stepped forward to post a different side to the
story and Mrs. Osteen
failed to effectively rebut the charges, the court of public opinion
turned against her.
As a result, what should have been a 90-second incident of temporary
insanity will likely follow Mrs. Osteen for the rest of her life
like a bad shadow.
THE FINAL WORD
What do you suppose Mrs. Osteen's mistake was?
Her first mistake was obvious. Ms Osteen underestimated the
consequences of losing her temper in
As Mr. Friedman pointed out in his article, even
though he originally thought it was right to stand
his ground at the checkout line in Logan Airport,
from now on he might just back off from being
'right' to avoid any
chance of controversy.
Mrs. Osteen's media nightmare
illuminates exactly what Mr. Friedman was trying to
explain: we all have to be careful to behave well in
Her second mistake was not dealing effectively with
all the resulting negative publicity.
I honestly think Mrs. Osteen got some bad advice in
how to respond to this incident, but that's just a
guess on my part. I have a hunch Mrs. Osteen
is a much nicer person than the media made her out
to be, but somehow the 'nice side' of her got ignored
in the rush to condemn.
As I was writing this story, I admit my perspective
of Victoria Osteen was a one-sided picture painted
by the media accounts of this airplane incident.
As you have seen for yourself, the media as well as
public opinion was not kind to Mrs.
Even before I researched the story on the Internet,
my memory told me that the FBI had been called,
complaints had been filed by the Flight Attendants,
the plane and its anxious passengers had been
delayed for two hours, and that Mrs. Osteen had
never presented much of a defense. Two years
later, nothing had come along to change those first
impressions as I began to write this story.
Then one night something happened.
On Friday night, June 29, 2007, I was at the dance
studio during Practice Night. It was towards
the end of the evening and I needed
to rest. I saw
two ladies sitting on a couch. Why not sit
down and chat?
I knew that one of the ladies worked at a Houston
church. Since I was in the middle of writing
this story, I was curious to see what she knew
about the incident. Maybe she had some inside
knowledge to shed more light. The lady said
she remembered the incident, but knew very little
Disappointed, I was about to drop
the subject when Linda, the second lady who was
sitting on the couch, spoke up to say
she knew Victoria Osteen personally.
Not only that, Linda said she
considered 'Victoria' a friend.
Linda knew Mrs. Osteen on a first-name basis?
I was shocked. I turned to hear what Linda had to say.
Linda went on to say that Victoria Osteen was one of the
kindest, warmest human beings she had ever met in
her life. Linda added she had never
seen Mrs. Osteen say a cross word to anyone in the
many years she had known her. In addition to
Joel Osteen and his mother Jodi, Linda felt the presence of
Mrs. Osteen was a constant blessing to Lakewood
As I mulled over what Linda had told me, the memory
of how my Refund dance couple had slanted the story of my
temper tantrum into a one-sided poison pen letter
came back to me. It was only when a witness
stepped up that the truth came out.
I had just met a witness for Victoria Osteen.
And what a difference it made!
Was it possible that a simple misunderstanding
between Mrs. Osteen and the Flight Attendants had
been blown far out of proportion?
And how ridiculous was the report that Mrs. Osteen
had charged the cockpit and banged on the door? How absurd.
Originally, the public got a good laugh out of the entire story at
Mrs. Osteen's expense, but now I was forced to
consider that some people manipulated and
exaggerated the truth to pursue their own agenda.
You don't suppose there was a chance that Channel 13
reporters, Chronicle writers, etc, had a field day
reporting what they wanted to report while
downplaying the contradictory
evidence as they interviewed the various parties
Look at it this way - the story of a privileged,
powerful and beautiful woman losing her temper was
guaranteed to generate a lot more interest than a
silly 90-second misunderstanding over a wet seat.
And we know the media survives on drumming up
Victoria Osteen treated fairly? Probably not.
But here in the 21st Century, this is the way it is.
Perception is Reality. Mrs. Osteen was
'Swift-Boated' to be sure. And like John
Kerry in our next story, Mrs. Osteen presented very few details to contradict
the stories that were circulating. As a
result, the damage was done.
But you know what? I believe Linda. The
words she spoke were sincere and unrehearsed.
Linda spoke the truth as she felt it when she
offered her unsolicited compliment of Victoria
Osteen. Obviously Mrs. Osteen isn't such a bad
person after all.
In June 2007, a young man named Alex
asked permission to teach a Salsa Crash Course here at the
studio. Little did he suspect a damaging trap was
being set for him.
Alex endured a scathing round of criticism. We will study
how this incident reflects on the theories brought forth in
the Thomas Friedman article.