Delta CEO says 'our values are not for sale' after feud with Georgia lawmakers over NRA

The airline decided to reduce its discount for NRA members.

March 2, 2018, 11:28 AM

— -- The CEO of Delta sent a letter to employees today, affirming the company's decision to end a discount for members of the National Rifle Association.

"Our decision was not made for economic gain and our values are not for sale," CEO Ed Bastian wrote in the letter that was obtained by ABC News and later shared on social media.

Georgia lawmakers took revenge on Delta Air Lines, which is based in Atlanta, by killing a tax break that would have saved the airline millions of dollars.

"While Delta’s intent was to remain neutral, some elected officials in Georgia tied our decision to a pending jet fuel tax exemption, threatening to eliminate it unless we reversed course," Bastian wrote in the letter.

"I have heard from many of you over the last few days. Our people and our customers have a wide range of views on how to increase safety in our schools and public places, and we are not taking sides. Our objective in removing any implied affiliation with the NRA was to remove Delta from this debate," he continued.

Bastian cited the NRA's "controversial statements" in the wake of the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, which left 17 students and staff members dead.

The letter noted that the company is in the process of reviewing discount rates that are offered "for any group of a politically divisive nature."

Georgia Republican Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle set up the showdown between supporters of gun rights and Delta, which is one of Georgia's biggest private employers with 33,000 employees, when he vowed earlier this week to stop any tax break that would benefit the company.

The proposed tax break at the center of the debate impacts the cost of jet fuel. The Associated Press reported that the break was estimated to be worth at least $38 million, and Delta was expected to be the prime beneficiary.

Bastian declared his "respect and admiration" for Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, who called the tax fight an "unbecoming squabble" at a news conference on Wednesday. However, Deal said he will still sign the tax bill even without the break for Delta.

"I know this action by the state legislature troubled him as it does all of us," Bastian wrote.

He concluded by noting that it "is not comfortable to be caught in a highly emotional debate," but added, "hopefully, our decisions this week will serve the ultimate cause."

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