Edward Bastian, CEO of Delta Air Lines Inc., speaks during an interview in New York, USA on Wednesday, September 18, 2019.
Christopher Goodney | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian on Wednesday blasted a controversial GOP-backed electoral law in Georgia after receiving backlash on social media for not speaking out strongly enough against the new rules.
The bill, signed last week by Georgia governor Brian Kemp, aims to require ID for postal voting, limit ballot boxes, and ban the provision of food or water to voters. President Joe Biden called the bill “Jim Crow in the 21st Century”.
“Last week, Georgian lawmakers passed a comprehensive voting reform bill that could make it difficult for many Georgians, especially those in our black and brown communities, to exercise their right to vote,” Bastian said in a staff note on Wednesday.
“Since the start of the bill, Delta has joined other major Atlanta corporations in working closely with elected officials from both parties in an attempt to remove some of the most egregious measures from the bill,” wrote Bastian. “We have had some success in removing the most oppressive tactics that some suggested, but I need to make it clear that the final calculation is unacceptable and does not match Delta’s values.”
“The entire rationale for this bill was based on a lie: There was widespread electoral fraud in Georgia in the 2020 elections. This is simply not true,” said Bastian. “Unfortunately, states across the country are using this excuse trying to pass similar laws to restrict voting rights.”
Bastian’s comments come as a host of other executives criticized the new law and several black CEOs urged executives to oppose efforts to restrict electoral access.
“When we examined the electoral law proposed in Georgia, it was of the opinion that based on our knowledge of the political climate there was no chance of this law being abolished entirely,” Bastian told staff on Tuesday in a video message that was checked by CNBC .
He said Atlanta-based Delta has been working to urge lawmakers to make changes to improve the bill.
“I know that many of you are disappointed, frustrated and angry that we have not spoken out more publicly against certain measures in the bill,” said Bastian. “Unfortunately, reality would have made it much more difficult to shape the legislation at all and we would have lost a seat at the table.”
Bastian added that he knew employees needed to have questions from customers about the company’s attitude.
Last week, Bastian said Georgia’s electoral law “improved significantly during the legislative process,” leading to calls for a boycott of Delta on social media.
Georgias Kemp shot back on Wednesday.
“At no point has Delta opposed expanding early voting, strengthening voter identification measures, increasing the use of secure dropboxes across the state, and making it easier for local electoral officials to conduct elections – that is exactly what this bill does.”
“The last time I flew with Delta, I had to show my photo ID,” Kemp said in a statement. “Today’s statement by Delta CEO Ed Bastian is in stark contrast to our discussions with the company, ignores the content of the new law and unfortunately continues to spread the same false attacks repeated by partisan activists.”
Delta declined to comment or indicate which parts of the invoice should be changed.
– CNBC’s Kevin Stankiewicz contributed to this article.