Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian, eager to dispel a wide-ranging social media perception of the airline’s apparent initial support of Georgia’s new voter restriction bill that resulted in a #BoycottDelta movement, got into a war of words with Gov. Brian Kemp on Wednesday.
The bill, signed by Kemp last week, has become another subject that has divided the nation. Kemp and supporters of the new law say it addresses illegal voting and voter fraud. Opponents say it amounts to voter suppression, not voter restrictions, especially among minorities.
Bastian delivered a tepid statement last week that seemed to express support for the bill, saying that with Delta’s help the crafting of the final bill “improved considerably.”
That set off a movement to boycott Atlanta-based companies like Delta, Coca-Cola and Home Depot.
This time, Bastian didn’t mince words.
In a new statement issued to Delta employees on Wednesday, he called the bill “unacceptable” and wrote that he realizes now the voter bill was “based on a lie.”
“I need to make it crystal clear that the final bill is unacceptable and does not match Delta’s values,” Bastian wrote. “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. That is wrong.”
He added, “The entire rationale for this bill was based on a lie: that there was widespread voter fraud in Georgia in the 2020 elections. This is simply not true. Unfortunately, that excuse is being used in states across the nation that are attempting to pass similar legislation to restrict voting rights.”
That prompted Gov. Kemp to fire back.
“Today’s statement by Delta CEO Ed Bastian stands in stark contrast to our conversations with the company, ignores the content of the new law, and unfortunately continues to spread the same false attacks being repeated by partisan activists,” Kemp said in a statement according to CNN. “Mr. Bastian should compare voting laws in Georgia — which include no-excuse absentee balloting, online voter registration, 17 days of early voting with an additional two optional Sundays, and automatic voter registration when obtaining a driver’s license — with other states Delta Airlines operates in.”
Delta declined to respond to Kemp’s statement.