Fact Check

Window Seat

Mitt Romney said he didn't know why airplane windows don't open?

Published Sep 24, 2012

Claim:   Mitt Romney said he thinks airplane windows should be able to roll down in case of fire.


TRUE: Mitt Romney said he didn't know why airplane windows don't open.
FALSE: Mitt Romney expressed genuine confusion about why airplane windows don't open.

Example:   [Collected via e-mail, September 2012]

Did Mitt Romney really say he thinks airplane windows should be able to roll down in case of fire?


Origins:   On 21 September 2012, a charter plane carrying Ann Romney, the wife of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, from Omaha to Santa Monica, California, was forced to make an emergency landing in Denver after the pilot reported seeing smoke in the cockpit. The following day, at a fundraiser in Beverly Hills, Mitt Romney was quoted by the Los Angeles Times as having said the following about his wife's experience:

"I appreciate the fact that she is on the ground, safe and sound. And I don’t think she knows just how worried some of us were,” Romney said. “When you have a fire in an aircraft, there’s no place to go, exactly, there’s no — and you can’t find any oxygen from outside the aircraft to get in the aircraft, because the windows don’t open. I don’t know why they don’t do that. It’s a real problem. So it’s very dangerous. And she was choking and rubbing her eyes. Fortunately, there was enough oxygen for the pilot and copilot to make a safe landing in Denver. But she’s safe and sound.”

The day after publishing that comment about airplane windows, the Los Angeles Times noted:

The candidate's complaint about sealed plane windows quickly went viral on social media. Some are making fun of Romney for not knowing about the risks involved with an open window, while others think it might be just a joke.

A review of video footage of Mitt Romney's remarks shows that it is literally true that he did speak the words attributed to him, but it's not true that, as claimed, he was genuinely expressing confusion about why airplane windows don't open. When he said "I don’t know why they don’t do that" (in reference to airplane windows' not opening), his delivery clearly indicated that he intended the line to be taken as a tongue-in-cheek aside rather than as a serious statement:

New York magazine reported that:

The Los Angeles Times story that relayed Romney's airplane remark to the world was based off a pool report written by the New York Times's Ashley Parker. When we asked Parker whether it seemed as if Romney made the mark in jest, she left no doubt. "Romney was joking," she e-mailed. Parker told us that while the pool report didn't explicitly indicate that Romney was joking, it was self-evident that he was. "The pool report provided the full transcript of his comments on Ann's plane scare," she said, "and it was clear from the context that he was not being serious."

Similarly, TheBlaze reported that:

William Everitt, vice president of Investment Real Estate Associates (IREA), [said] that he was at the Romney fundraiser in Beverly Hills. He said Romney was absolutely joking when he said he doesn‘t know why airplane windows don’t open.

“Basically he was retelling the story and when he said ‘I don’t know why they don’t have roll down windows on airplanes,’ he looked at the audience and everyone laughed,” Everitt [said]. “It was a clearly delivered joke … There were 1,000 people there that will tell you the same thing.”

Last updated:   24 September 2012


    Amira, Dan.   "Mitt Romney Was Joking About Airplane Windows."

    New York.   25 September 2012.

    Howerton, Jason.   "Did Media Fail tO Report That Romney Was Joking?"

    TheBlaze.   24 September 2012.

    Mehta, Seema.   "Mitt Romney Pulls in $6 million at Beverly Hills Fundraiser."

    Los Angeles Times.   23 September 2012.

    Wang, Xiaonan.   "Romney Mocked for Comment About Jet Windows."

    Los Angeles Times.   24 September 2012.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

Article Tags