SYDNEY, Australia — The Australian airline Qantas Airways has said it will support a flight attendant if she decides to sue the musician Will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas for defamation after he called her a racist on Twitter and posted her name and photograph.
Will.i.am, a producer and rapper whose real name is William Adams, was on a flight from Brisbane to Sydney on Saturday during his band’s Australian tour when, he said, the flight attendant became overly aggressive in asking him to stow his laptop before landing. After the dispute between the two, federal police officers were called to meet the musician at the gate.
The flight attendant, Will.i.am wrote on Twitter, “clearly aimed all her frustrations only at the people of colour.”
In a follow-up tweet to his 12.8 million followers in which he posted the flight attendant’s name and picture, he used the hashtag #racistflightattendant. He later deleted the tweet, though the name and image remain in other posts.
Qantas has publicly stood by the flight attendant, saying, “we completely reject the suggestion this had anything to do with race.” The company said there had been a “misunderstanding” made worse by the musician’s use of noise-canceling headphones.
“Absent a retraction, and if the crew member wanted to take the matter further, we’d certainly be willing to provide legal support for them to do this,” a spokeswoman said on Monday.
On Twitter, Will.i.am answered a number of people who criticized his actions, including one who predicted that he would face a lawsuit. Australia, with its notoriously strict defamation laws, may offer a particularly favorable environment for one.
The country does not have a Bill of Rights, and there is no constitutional protection for freedom of speech. That has helped breed a legal system in which defamation cases are comparatively easy to win.
Will.i.am said he had spoken out as an act of resistance against racial discrimination.
“I am posting so that this doesn’t happen again,” he wrote. “Everyone deserves to be treated with respect.”