Trump Supporters Still Spreading Bullshit About Armrests, Get Debunked Again

Photo of first class seats on a Braniff Airways flight in the late 1970s, and an excerpt from the flight attendants’ manual (Braniff Airways Foundation, Braniff Flying Colors Collection, Dallas, Texas)

Trump supporters claim that airline armrests are the key to proving Donald Trump couldn’t have sexually assaulted a woman on a plane in 1979. But the aviation nerd community keeps debunking their bullshit.

The Braniff Foundation, a nonprofit organization that documents and preserves the history of Braniff Airways, just released a flight attendant manual from 1979 proving that armrests on Braniff’s Boeing 727 airplanes could move. Other airlines from the time also had first class seats with moveable armrests.


The 1979 manual for Braniff flight attendants explained that “the arm rests in first class are removable by pulling up.” According to Ben Cass, founder of the Braniff Foundation, it would’ve taken “two seconds” to move the armrest.

The organization also released photos to CNN and TMZ (Update: And Gizmodo, as you can see from the photos below) showing the first class cabin of a Braniff 727 from that period. Why does it matter if the armrests in first class from this period could move? Because everyone from Trump spokesperson Katrina Pierson to amateur internet sleuths are insisting that one of the six women who are currently accusing Donald Trump of unwanted sexual advances must be lying.

A woman named Jessica Leeds told the New York Times this week that she was sexually assaulted by Donald Trump on a plane back in the late 1970s or early 80s. Leeds claims that Trump raised an armrest that was separating them and began groping her breasts and tried to put his hand up her skirt. But Trump supporters insist that she’s lying because they say that first class seats don’t have armrests that can move.

“Guess what? First-class seats have fixed armrests,” Trump spokesperson Katrina Pierson told Don Lemon on CNN, as the other guests tried to hold back their laughter about her absurd claim.


Ever since Pierson’s TV appearance, a crackerjack team of internet sleuths on pro-Trump Reddit forums have tried to become experts in aviation design history. But the real aviation nerds just keep proving how idiotic the Trump supporters are.

Photo of first class seats on a Braniff Airways 727 flight in the mid 1970s (Braniff Airways Foundation, Braniff Flying Colors Collection, Dallas, Texas)

Yesterday the Trump campaign promoted a story in the New York Post from a British man named Anthony Gilberthorpe who was allegedly on the same flight as Leeds and Trump.

“Not only did he not do so (and I was present at all times) but it was she that was the one being flirtatious,” Gilberthorpe told the Post.


Just before Gilberthorpe’s account was published by the Post, Leeds told CNN that her flight had been on a 707 in 1979. Braniff was reportedly only operating 727s on flights from Dallas to New York during that year, but the fuselages look identical. So it appears Leeds may have mistaken a Boeing 727 for a 707. But despite the fact that many people are skeptical of Gilberthorpe’s story—who would’ve been about 17 years old at the time and said that the flight was in 1980 or 81, not 1979—the promotion of Gilberthorpe’s eyewitness account by the Trump campaign seems to be an implicit acknowledgement that at least Leeds and Trump were on the same flight.

Trump supporters will no doubt continue to insist that Leeds is lying, but this pathetic armrest defense (depressingly, there’s a hashtag called #ArmrestGate) just doesn’t hold water.

Photo of first class seats on a Braniff Airways 727 flight in the early 1970s (Braniff Airways Foundation, Braniff Flying Colors Collection, Dallas, Texas)

Matt Novak is the editor of Gizmodo's Paleofuture blog

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