At Le Cirque last night for Betty White's 89th birthday, a repentant Arianna Huffington did express her belief that the story surrounding her BlackBerry abuse on an airplane had been blown out of proportion.
The media mogul had been accused last week of refusing to shut down her BlackBerry on a flight from Dulles Airport in D.C. to LaGuardia, and when we broached the issue, she good-naturedly held up her purple-rubber encased BlackBerry for a posed shot.
Huffington, though, insisted to us that she had followed the rules and erred only in turning it on again too quickly.
"I think definitely, we need to turn the phones off. And I had turned it off. And I turned it on probably too soon as I said. You know, so it was not that I had not turned it off; I had turned it off. And then at 10,000 feet, you can turn it on again. You have no communication; you have no access. But you can turn it on. I probably turned it on too soon but then turned it right off again."
Of course, enraged passenger Ellis Belodoff, the one who caused all the commotion on the United Airlines flight by calling attention to Huffington's alleged transgression, told the The New York Post about his attempts to get a male flight attendant to reprimand the media mogul.
"I see a hand in front of me with a BlackBerry...So, I yell to him, 'She's on her BlackBerry'...He made it seems like I should sit there calmly while we crash. Shame on other people for not speaking up."
Belodoff had insisted that Huffington was using her mobile device as the plane was taxiing down the tarmac for take-off, an accusation she denies.
"It was all blown-up beyond all proportion," she said of the news stories which trickled around major media outlets and the blogosphere. Gawker even noted Huffington had her HuffPo editors bar any comments about her airline incident on her site.
The surly Belodoff apparently heckled her, "Hey, lady!" Don't you speak English?" and as a valediction told her, "Don't get hit by a bus."
When we asked about the urgency of her BlackBerry use and whether she was trying to connect with HuffPo editors, she acknowledged her wrongdoing.
"Yeah, but there's no excuse," she said. "It's like, we all have reasons to be online, whether it's work or personal. There's not an excuse."
Of course, as The Times reported, cell phones and e-devices do not necessarily interfere with plane safety but have been thought to play a role in some crashes, including a 2003 accident in New Zealand.
As we noted when we caught her at the Library Lions Gala this fall, Huffington does rely on her cell phone as a social crutch when she finds her self lonely (and by candlelight) at festivities. Perhaps her instinct on the plane was simply inveterate.
In parting, Huffington spoke to us of the dangers of phone lights in interrupting sleep; making good on her supposed phone abuse, she offered up a plan for Betty White's present that would save her from the onerous BlackBerry rays:
"I would buy [White] a sleep mask so that she can really sleep well at night, because I've discovered that if you don't see any light in your room, no T.V. light, no phone light, you sleep much better. I've explored sleep masks, and it really, really blocks the light, so I would get her one of those, because there is nothing more important than a good night's sleep."