'This is MAGA Airspace': New York Times Reporter Falls Headfirst for Obvious Satire

Passengers go maskless on a U.S. flight after a federal judge blocked the Biden administration's transportation mask mandate. / Twitter
April 19, 2022

A New York Times reporter reached out to a Twitter user who joked that flight attendants on his plane yanked off their masks, sneezed in their hands, and screamed, "This is MAGA airspace" to mark the end of masking on public transportation, causing his son to burst out in tears.

"I would love to discuss the incident at your earliest convenience," Jared Rabel responded to reporter Victoria Kim. "Unfortunately it's satire that only someone at the NYT would believe."

Rabel on Monday tweeted the obviously satirical story, a parody of left-wing pearl-clutching after a federal judge that day struck down the Biden administration's public transportation mask mandate. Rabel's tweet parodied convicted hate-crime hoaxer and former Mighty Ducks star Jussie Smollett's false claim that white men attacked him while shouting, "This is MAGA country!"

In a follow-up tweet, Rabel jokingly called for donations to "my son's legal defense fund" and wrote that his son now identifies as a girl, "so his pronouns are she/her." His Twitter bio says he is a Christian and a "libertarian on the old right."

While every Twitter commenter recognized Rabel's post as satire, Kim, who yesterday wrote a Times piece on the end of the mask mandate, did not.

"Hi Jared, I'm a New York Times reporter, I'd love to speak to you over the phone about what happened on your flight this evening," Kim wrote.

Rabel kept the satire going for a few lines before revealing the obvious joke.

"In my time of contemplation," he wrote, "I was wondering how your team deals with the multitude of false stories that you peddle out daily to use as political propaganda and if you could give me advice on how to take my satire to the next level? Best wishes."

"For those asking, this is 100% legit," Rabel tweeted with a screenshot of Kim's message. "I'm as surprised as you."

"Twitter may be bad for humanity," journalist Zaid Jilani tweeted of the incident, "but it's pretty good for comedy."