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After Boycotts and Backlash, Bastian Steps Back From Georgia Voting Bill Comments

After Boycotts and Backlash, Bastian Steps Back From Georgia Voting Bill Comments
Joe Cortez

Public outrage over Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian saying Georgia’s controversial Senate Bill 202 “improved considerably” from previous versions is forcing the executive to walk back some of his opinions. In a new statement, the leader now says: “the final bill is unacceptable.”

When Georgia’s controversial voting overhaul was signed into law by Republican governor Brian Kemp, Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian said the bill “improved considerably” during the legislative process. However, after the public called out the leader for his commentary and threatened a boycott, the executive slowly walked away from his comments. In a new memo attributed to Bastian, the leader is now calling the bill “unacceptable.”

“The final bill is unacceptable and does not match Delta’s values.”

Opening with a story about why the airline named a building about former board member, civil rights leader and former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Andrew Young, Bastian was quick to denounce Senate Bill 202. Alongside other Atlanta-based businesses, he took credit for “eliminating the most suppressive tactics” that the bill proposed before its final stage.

“I need to make it crystal clear that the final bill is unacceptable and does not match Delta’s values,” Bastian said in the memo. “The right to vote is sacred. It is fundamental to our democracy and those rights not only need to be protected, but easily facilitated in a safe and secure manner.”

In previous communications to employees, Bastian offered what many interpreted as praise for the passage of Senate Bill 202. The first memo attributed to the executive said the law “expands weekend voting, codifies Sunday voting and protects a voter’s ability to cast an absentee ballot without providing a reason.” In additional comments reported by Skift, Bastian told Delta’s workforce that “taking a stronger stand…would have made it much harder to shape the legislation at all.”

But days later, after #BoycottDelta began trending on social media, Bastian now says that he didn’t comprehend the potential impact of the law. The updated statement uses much stronger language, saying the legislation in its entirety was “based on a lie: that there was widespread voter fraud in Georgia in the 2020 elections.”

“After having time to now fully understand all that is in the bill, coupled with discussions with leaders and employees in the Black community, it’s evident that the bill includes provisions that will make it harder for many underrepresented voters, particularly Black voters, to exercise their constitutional right to elect their representatives,” Bastian said in the memo. “That is wrong.”

Public Backlash Forces Several Companies to Change Course on Senate Bill 202

Delta isn’t the only Atlanta-based company now speaking out against the new voting laws after the public threatened boycotts against leading brands. Atlanta NBC affiliate WXIA reports Atlanta’s major sports teams, Coca-Cola and Home Depot have now issued statements speaking out against the law.

Image courtesy: Shizuo Kambayashi | AP

View Comments (22)

22 Comments

  1. Grog

    April 1, 2021 at 3:40 am

    I still can’t understand why Ed Bastian thought his initial statements should be made. Glad to see him squirming for them.

    In the future, how about keeping Delta’s letterhead away from anything that doesn’t directly–and I mean absolutely directly–involve the flying experience, Ed?

  2. rylan

    April 1, 2021 at 8:46 am

    First he is sort of for it, then strongly against it. Should’ve kept his mouth shut in the first place.

    Corporations have no place weighing in on political topics.

  3. sfoeuroflyer

    April 1, 2021 at 9:32 am

    Here’s a novel concept: Delta is an airline. It’s business is moving people from one place to another. It’s business is not politics. They should ignore the twitterai who represent absolutely nobody. Just do your business and let the twitter morons yammer to themselves. Quit bowing to the twitter mob. It is disgusting to watch apologies and lack of spine.

  4. strickerj

    April 1, 2021 at 11:16 am

    I honestly don’t understand why companies keep stepping into partisan politics. Even such an innocuous comment as “the final bill was better than the original one” offended potential customers, and now walking it back will alienate other customers. No good ever comes of this – why do companies keep forgetting that not making a comment either way is an option?

  5. Aloha1

    April 1, 2021 at 1:51 pm

    Pretty obvious, Bastian never bothered to read the bill. Either that or he kowtowed to the mob which makes him unfit to lead Delta. Stand up, Ed. Be an honest leader or get out.

  6. c502cid

    April 1, 2021 at 5:17 pm

    Delta, now with extra supportive seats for those with spines made of jello!

  7. EdV

    April 2, 2021 at 5:22 am

    I agree he never should have commented in the first place. And even though he’s walked it back now it’s obvious where he and Delta stand (which is not for everyone having equal voting rights) despite the apology. This bill is a travesty and I’m sad that he supported it from the start. Thank goodness I don’t fly them.

  8. Aloha1

    April 2, 2021 at 10:50 am

    It is only a matter of time before the Georgia Legislature removes the fuel tax credit. When that happens, the Boar of directors needs to fire Bastien for incompetence. How can you make an accusation against a bill you admit you have not read??

  9. jamar

    April 2, 2021 at 11:33 am

    To the people insisting that “no comment” is an option that should have been exercised, it should be noted that in this day and age there are plenty of travelers that have an opinion and would strongly prefer spending their money on businesses that share said opinion or would strongly prefer NOT spending their money on businesses that don’t. In this case, it was obviously enough money for Delta to realize that not speaking out will cost them future business.

  10. craig44485

    April 3, 2021 at 7:59 am

    So he thinks it’s racist for the state of Georgia to require voters to show ID, yet his airline requires you to show an ID to buy a ticket and board their planes. Next time someone checks in and they ask to see your ID, just tell the ticket agent that it’s racist, feel free to video it on your cell phone, and then let us know how that goes.

  11. puddinhead

    April 3, 2021 at 8:08 am

    If you have an advertised political opinion as a corporation you will also turn away travelers. If Delta really cared about voting issues they would stop doing business with China after their changes to Hong Kong’s democratic process.
    Delta, focus on flying and not political stances.

    Jamar profiles as an AA Plat, not a Delta flyer.

  12. Aloha1

    April 3, 2021 at 1:06 pm

    In the end, even the left caves in to convenience. If DL has a better route, they will take it rather than go thru 2 or 3 stops and plane changes. So much for a “boycott”. And as to the bill, if you read it you will see it’s better than several”blue” States laws. Better than New York, better than Delaware, better than Illinois, etc. I could go on but I encourage everyone to read the bill before assuming anything.

    Once upon a time, we Americans actually took the time to rationally look and review something before joining a “mob”. Those who are doing so today, need to grow up.

  13. SpartyAir

    April 3, 2021 at 9:46 pm

    EdV – you are the stupid one. Read the bill and you will find out why. People who listen to CNN, MSNBC, NBC, CBS, NPR, and ABC are so ignorant they can’t figure out they are being lied to about the bill (and almost everything else). Even the left wing Washington Post gave Biden 4 Pinocchio’s 2 times for his lies.

    jamar – If what you say is true, then if all the airlines said nothing, those people you are talking about would never be able to fly anywhere. That would be a good thing. It would keep all the idiots off the planes.

  14. cairns

    April 4, 2021 at 9:49 am

    I rarely fly Delta. But I won’t ever do it so long as he’s the CEO.

  15. jtatlanta

    April 5, 2021 at 2:30 am

    So sick of CEO’s kowtowing to the constantly outraged race baiting left wing media and twitter warriors. If anyone actually reads the GA law all it is asking for is an ID to vote! When I get on a Delta flight I have to show an ID so not sure why its a problem for a voter? If Ed is now against this law I presume when I fly Delta later this week I will now not have to show any ID?

  16. jamar

    April 5, 2021 at 12:00 pm

    Everyone saying “but you have to show an ID to get on a plane”- fun fact, you don’t actually have to. The TSA DOES have a procedure for people who aren’t able to produce an ID at the security checkpoint. It’s longer, and it involves a bunch of “public records” questions, but you CAN board if you’ve given yourself enough time beforehand.

    And that’s aside from the fact that flying is a privilege, while voting is a right. Two different things, two different standards that should be applied on that basis.

    And, of course, SpartyAir- I’d imagine the well-paid people in the C-Suites and boards of this airline are privy to more data than you, and are thus able to say that keeping “all the idiots off their planes” also means keeping enough money OUT of their coffers to affect their continued ability to operate.

  17. MRM

    April 6, 2021 at 5:36 am

    Voting is a right with the proper identification – the same type of identification required for many other tasks. To try and believe that it’s suddenly racist to require one to vote? SMH.

    By the way, go read NY voting laws – I mean, if folks can bother to do so. That’s a law you can raise some questions about – especially compared to the watered down Georgia bill.

  18. Counsellor

    April 6, 2021 at 6:12 am

    What a coward! And apparently unable to read — or didn’t bother to read the actual law he’s inveighing against. What an idiot! (By the way, if he’s against photo ID, does that mean he’ll no longer require it to board Delta flights?)

  19. jamar

    April 6, 2021 at 9:34 am

    Voting is a right, plain and simple. Holding it up to the same standard as “many other tasks” which aren’t clearly stated rights in and of themselves (and some of which will still accommodate you if you don’t have ID) is trying to draw an equivalence where there is none.

  20. SpartyAir

    April 7, 2021 at 8:20 am

    If you are saying that requiring ID to vote is making it more difficult to vote, you are an idiot. If someone can’t figure out a way to get an ID, then they are to stupid to figure out how to vote or they are not interested in voting. The ONLY reason to be against ID for voting is because you want to make it easier to commit voter fraud. If you claim requiring ID is racist and/or voter suppression, you are being disingenuous and using incendiary language to make it sound like people who support voter ID are evil.

  21. cairns

    April 7, 2021 at 3:09 pm

    Voting may be a right but if Americans lose faith in the integrity of elections we’re lost as a country, Not so long ago Dems were screaming Russia, Russia, Russia without a shred of evidence. Funny how that bites you in the keister.

  22. jamar

    April 10, 2021 at 1:58 pm

    Nah, it’s about accommodating people in difficult situations. The right to vote is one afforded to every citizen, regardless of whether they have “papers” or not. It should, as the legal system, work on “innocent until proven guilty”- you’re assumed to have the right to vote unless it’s obviously proven you don’t. Also, plenty of evidence of the Dems’ shouting has been uncovered, not so much with this.

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