The ex-wife of Steven Slater, the flight attendant who has become something of a folk hero for his dramatic exit from a JetBlue aircraft after an altercation with a passenger, said Thursday that Slater is a “consummate flight attendant” who was “born to fly.” Cynthia Susanne said that her ex-husband is “such a gentleman” that the passenger who set him off must have been “a nightmare.”
“I do not believe that he was rude to anyone,” Susanne told Meredith Vieira live on TODAY. “I'm going to go out on a limb and say that this passenger was a nightmare” to have provoked Slater, 38, to launch an expletive-laden tirade over the plane’s public address system before activating the plane’s emergency exit slide and driving to his home in Queens.
Susanne said that she first heard of the incident when “it was brought to me by a news reporter over the telephone.” She added: “It was shocking to me, because I couldn’t believe the media frenzy at my door. I can’t imagine what Steven is going through.”
While Slater has indeed become a household name almost overnight — gathering some 160,000 Facebook friends in the days since his tirade and arrest — it may come as a surprise to some that he even has an ex-wife. Susanne says they were married in 1991, but their union lasted less than a year.
Susanne told NBC said she first believed their marriage ended “because we were very young — like kids, really. Now I think I know better than that.”
Before Susanne’s interview, Lauren Dominijanni, a passenger on the Aug. 9 flight that Slater dramatically exited, reported in a TODAY telephone interview that Slater had seemed agitated well before the emergency slide incident. “He had a huge gash on his head; he looked very disgruntled,” she said.
Dominijanni also said that when she asked Slater for an antiseptic wipe to clean up some coffee that had been spilled on her seat, Slater rolled his eyes and said, “Not now, honey; maybe when we get in the air.”
But Susanne told Vieira she finds such accounts “hard to believe” suspects that passengers’ recollections have been affected by the media frenzy over her ex-husband. “It would not surprise me if perception was skewed ... perception is everything,” she said. She also added that “I do not believe Steven to have a problem with alcohol or substance abuse ... he’s just such a great, fantastic person.
“It’s a sign of the times,” Susanne told Vieira. “We’ve all stood behind someone abusing a store clerk.” And, she added, flight attendants get even more abuse that most service personnel. “They are not waitresses of the sky,” she said. “They are there to save your life. They should have that respect.”
As for Slater, Susanne said, “I think he’s fantastic. I know he will handle this with all the grace and humility he has.
“He’s in the bubble right now,” Susanne added. “I know he will come through this just fine.”