An 84-year-old New York grandmother has said she was injured and humiliated when she was strip searched at an airport after she asked to be patted down instead of going through a body scanner.
Lenore Zimmerman said she was taken to a private room and made to take off her pants and other clothes after she asked to forgo the screening because she worried it would interfere with her defibrillator. She missed her flight and had to take one two-and-a-half hours later, she said.
"I'm hunched over. I'm in a wheelchair. I weigh under 110 pounds (50 kilograms) and I'm going to be 85 in February. Do I look like a terrorist?," she said from her winter home at a seniors community in Coconut Creek, Florida. "This was the worst experience."
But the Transportation Security Administration said in a statement late Thursday no strip search was conducted.
"While we regret that the passenger feels she had an unpleasant screening experience, TSA does not include strip searches as part of our security protocols and one was not conducted in this case," the statement read.
Zimmerman went to Kennedy Airport for a 1 pm flight on Tuesday to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on JetBlue, she said. She arrived to the ticket counter around 12:20 pm and headed for security in a wheelchair, her small, metal walker in her lap.
She's been traveling to Florida for at least a decade and has never had a problem being patted down until now, she said. "I worry about my heart, so I don't want to go through those things," she said referring to the advanced image technology screening machines now in place at the airport.
As a result, she said she was taken into the private screening room by one agent and made to strip.
A review of closed-circuit television at the airport showed proper procedures were followed, Jonathan Allen, a TSA spokesman, said in a statement.
"Private screening was requested by the passenger, it was granted and lasted approximately 11 minutes," the statement read. "TSA screening procedures are conducted in a manner designed to treat all passengers with dignity, respect and courtesy and that occurred in this instance."