After threats of a boycott and being the target of other proposed protests against Delta Air Lines, its CEO is doing an about-face on the controversial topic of Georgia’s new law restricting voting access that is expected to disproportionately affect Black and brown communities.
Delta CEO Ed Bastian previously praised the new law — SB 202 — as recently as last week. But on Wednesday, he conveniently had a change of heart after the prospects of losing business during a time when the travel industry has already been crippled because of the pandemic.
After describing SB202 as having “improved” existing election laws, Bastain said Wednesday it was “unacceptable.” He suggested his words in a company statement were taken out of context and said he was finally setting the record straight about his opinion on the matter, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“I need to make it crystal clear that the final bill is unacceptable and does not match Delta’s values,” Bastain wrote in an internal memo sent to Delta employees.
That didn’t match the same energy Bastain had when he selectively glossed over SB 202 provisions such as barriers to mobile voting, preventing volunteers from handing out water and other line-warming activities, and additional restrictions placed on absentee voting. Bastian’s previous statement also fed into claims that SB 202 promotes greater election security when there is no evidence that warrants a genuine concern of election integrity and security.
Bastain addressed that in his memo on Wednesday.
“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,” Bastain wrote. “Unfortunately, that excuse is being used in states across the nation that are attempting to pass similar legislation to restrict voting rights.”
But Gov. Brian Kemp said Bastain was all-in on the bill leading up to it being signed into law.
“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.
Bastain’s updated thoughts on SB 202 fell in line with civil rights and voting activists who called the law what it was: racist voter suppression.
“There’s no acceptable version of this bill partially because the entire premise is a lie,” Cliff Albright, co-founder of Black Voters Matter, previously told NewsOne.
Calls for an economic boycott spread across social media after the passage of SB 202. Corporate accountability in democracy organizing has become a major topic after the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.
Voting rights groups have been pushing back on Delta, Coca-Cola, Home Depot, and other Georgia-based corporations that were exposed for donations to elected officials who supported voter suppression and Trump’s big lie. Demanding corporate support for HR 1 and HR 4 could be the next major push in this ongoing accountability effort.