Thomas Demetrio is no art critic; he’s the attorney for David Dao — whom you and probably the rest of the world saw dragged off a United Airlines flight last month.
But he’s a lawyer who knows his way around an analogy. At a news conference in the wake of the dragging last month, Demetrio compared the violent ejection to Dao’s escape from Vietnam during the fall of Saigon.
“I hope he becomes a poster child for all of us,” Demetrio said at the time. “Someone’s got to.”
Good prediction. The New Yorker just unveiled its next cover, which merges the iconic image of Dao’s dragging with the sudden firing of James B. Comey as FBI director. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is drawn as the airport police officer who did the deed, with President Trump as a United pilot looking on.
The Washington Post’s questions and Demetrio’s answers have been edited for clarity.
What do you think of the cartoon?
That cartoon tries to make a point that Mr. Comey had no intention of giving up his seat. The president did something that hasn’t been done since President Clinton fired the FBI director early in his tenure. It’s an extraordinary firing, because it’s so rare.
So, I get it.
Would you compare Dao’s dragging to Comey’s firing?
Dr. Dao had his glasses askew, he had blood coming out of his mouth, he may have been unconscious at that point. And here Mr. Comey is looking as dapper as ever, and he’s not harmed.
The analogy was not respectful of what Dr. Dao went through.
Why do you think Trump is drawn as a United pilot?
The cartoon captures Mr. Trump in the background, behind Sessions. And last night, we learned from the Lester Holt interview that it really was not Sessions at all; Donald Trump took full credit for firing him, regardless of any recommendations.
Really, the cartoon is old news now — and it’s not even out yet. It was Trump that was doing the dragging, not Sessions, according to the president.
Maybe Trump’s the captain. Maybe he’s the cop. I don’t know what he is.
What does Dao think of the cartoon?
I haven’t talked to him today; I don’t even know if he’s seen it.
He sincerely and legitimately is pleased, if you will, that he seems to have lit a fire. He takes pride in the changes that I believe are going to be coming — industry-wide on a voluntary basis.
United has taken the lead and already made some significant policy and cultural changes.
I think the industry in general is very afraid there is going to be a passenger rights bill. Unfortunately, it took him being rather violently removed from that plane to bring about a discussion.
Do you think the outrage over Comey’s firing will do to the administration what the outrage over Dao’s dragging did to the airline industry?
I don’t think so; I think that moment came a long time ago.
This has been a very volatile 100 days, or whatever it is. Imagine being surprised the Russians publicized a photo op. Sessions fired all of the U.S. attorneys across the country, and not one has been replaced yet. That’s not good.
The Comey firing, and the manner and method in which it was done, is just another event that is, I don’t know, unnecessary.