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This story illustrates the need to defend yourself vigorously whenever anyone attacks your Reputation.  Do not sit back passively and expect things to go away... because things will just get worse. 

The Curious Christmas Calamity of Victoria Osteen

Written by Rick Archer, July 2007

Headline: Pastor Joel Osteen's wife Victoria involved 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, Colorado.

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 discuss details.

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 Colorado Monday.

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, a
s 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 language services.) 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

Commentary 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 Reputation.

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 fire.

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."

POINT ONE:  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.

QUOTE 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?

POINT TWO:  Losing 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 story.

Wednesday, 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 dearly.

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 happened.

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.

Victoria Osteen

Unfortunately, this public response in the days after the incident did little to defuse much of the anger. 

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 explanations.

Here is what one person had to say about the response:

"She (Victoria 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


  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 it.

I 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'.

But then the Bible was written long before the Internet.

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. 

Due to 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 probably was.

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. 


What do you suppose Mrs. Osteen's mistake was?  Her first mistake was obvious.  Ms Osteen underestimated the consequences of losing her temper in public. 

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 public. 

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. Osteen.

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 about it. 

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 Church. 

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 involved?

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 interest.

Was 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.
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