Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) claimed Friday that Muhammad Ali Jr., the son of the late great boxing legend Muhamamd Ali, was "detained" by Department of Homeland Security officials while boarding a flight from Washington, D.C., to Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
"On way home on DOMESTIC FLIGHT Muhammad Ali Jr. detained AGAIN by @DHSgov. Religiously profiling son of 'The Greatest' will not make us safe," the congresswoman tweeted to her more than 350,000 followers.
On way home on DOMESTIC FLIGHT Muhammad Ali Jr. detained AGAIN by @DHSgov. Religiously profiling son of 'The Greate… https://t.co/nLD2FKoyyH— Debbie Wasserman Schultz (@Debbie Wasserman Schultz) 1489176841.0
The tweet came the same week as President Donald Trump and his administration revealed a revised executive order banning travel from six countries in the Middle East: Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. The previous order included the same countries plus Iraq.
The first executive order was held up in the federal court system after two states sued the administration, saying it was unconstitutional. Four states have so far filed suit against Trump's revised travel ban, according to the Hill.
But the former DNC chairwoman's "religious profiling" narrative fell apart just hours after her incendiary claim when Ali's hometown newspaper, the Louisville Courier-Journal, reported that the TSA denied ever having detained the boxing star's son.
"The TSA does not have the authority to detain passengers, and that did not happen," a TSA spokesman told the Courier-Journal. "In the security world, 'detain' means to take into custody. ... We don’t do that. Law enforcement does."
The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority further said that Ali was never arrested and that airport police were never even contacted.
Chris Mancini, Ali's lawyer, confirmed that Ali was delayed for about 20 minutes so that DHS officials could verify his identity.
According to the Courier-Journal:
Mancini said Homeland Security officials kept Ali Jr. on the phone for about 20 minutes while a line formed behind them at the check-in counter. Eventually, Ali Jr. voluntarily gave his passport to the ticket agent, who read the passport number over the phone. Only then was Ali Jr. cleared. No explanation was given for the delay.
Ali, Jr., and his mother Camacho Ali, both Muslims, were detained Feb. 7 at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport upon returning from Montego Bay, Jamaica, where the two gave a speech to mark Black History Month. Ali was reportedly held for nearly two hours while being questioned by immigration authorities.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection did not comment specifically on that incident, citing privacy restrictions.
Mancini blamed the Feb. 7 incident on Trump's first travel ban, telling the Courier-Journal, "To the Ali family, it's crystal clear that this is directly linked to Mr. Trump's efforts to ban Muslims from the United States." Trump signed the initial travel ban Jan. 27.