Why a Pilot Is Under Investigation for Saying ‘Let’s Go Brandon’

It started as a chant in a NASCAR race. It became an inside joke among many Republicans that spread to T-shirts and even the floor of Congress. And now it has embroiled Southwest Airlines in the nation’s political squabbles.

The phrase “Come on, Brandon,” which is understood to be a code to insult President Biden, was uttered over the intercom by a Southwest pilot during a flight on Friday, an Associated Press reporter wrote in an article about the spread of the phrase. The reporter, Colleen Long, who was on that flight, added that it caused “audible gasps from some passengers.”

When word of the comment spread on social media, many threatened to boycott the airline. Others pledged their support for Southwest because of the pilot’s comment. Southwest Airlines apologized to customers Sunday and said it was conducting an internal investigation.

“Southwest does not condone employees sharing their personal political views while at work,” the company said in an emailed statement to The New York Times. The airline did not say whether the pilot had been suspended for making the comment, adding that it does not comment on the status of an employee.

The viral moment began in early October at a NASCAR race in Alabama that aired on NBC. When a crowd seemed to cheer on host Brandon Brown, an NBC reporter who interviewed Mr. Brown suggested that people were yelling “Come on Brandon,” but it became clear that they were actually saying a four-letter expletive and then “Joe Biden “.

Since then, the phrase has exploded in popularity – lawmakers, musicians and former President Trump’s campaign PAC have used it in a joking tone.

Governor Greg Abbott of Texas said the phrase on Twitter on October 22. Representative Bill Posey, Republican of Florida, he said it on the floor of the house during a speech criticizing the Biden administration.

Billboard reported that artist Loza Alexander made his Hot 100 chart for the week of October 30 with a song titled “Let’s Go Brandon”.

But others, including many Democrats, don’t find the phrase funny. Twitter users who called for a boycott of Southwest said the airline should punish the pilot.

Political viral moments have become increasingly common in the digital age. During the 2020 election, a Trump campaign press conference held in the parking lot of a landscaping company inspired stickers, memes, a documentary film and even a charity run.

Karen North, a professor of digital media at the University of Southern California who worked for the Clinton administration, said that a moment like the “Brandon” phrase “has the fun of being an inside joke or meme and the power of being a manifestation cry at the same time “.

But these moments seem to have an increasingly shorter lifespan, North said. “Because new trends and memes spread much more quickly,” he added, “people have something new to jump to more quickly.”