Weeks after a reporter’s mishap gave birth to it, the Let’s Go Brandon meme is still generating fresh headlines. That’s thanks to the innocent-sounding phrase showing up everywhere from social media posts to the halls of Congress, plus in song titles, on merchandise — and now, somewhat controversially, even the cockpit of a commercial airline.
On Friday morning, an Associated Press reporter heard a Southwest Airlines pilot sign off a greeting to passengers over the plane’s public address system with “Let’s Go, Brandon.” By coincidence, the writer was already working on a story about the phrase’s popularity. Some passengers on that flight, from Houston to Albuquerque, audibly gasped. That’s because, in some usages of the euphemistic phrase? It’s a more family-friendly stand-in for directing an f-bomb at President Biden.
‘The airline apologizes for this event’
In an email to Forbes, Southwest said it “apologizes for this event.” The airline also released a statement on Saturday, which said it’s investigating this incident (while not mentioning an apology). Here’s the Southwest statement, in full:
We know many of you have heard about recent statements that may have been made on a Southwest flight, and we wanted you to hear directly from us. pic.twitter.com/CYh0MugYxd
— Southwest Airlines (@SouthwestAir) October 31, 2021
Needless to say, social media exploded with posts about this turn of events — which has sparked some pretty outrageous reactions. CNN analyst Asha Rangappa, for example, wrote a tweet over the weekend that seemed to compare the Southwest pilot’s usage of the LGB phrase from the cockpit, over the intercom, to being as awful as if the pilot would have said something like “Long Live ISIS.” In her tweet, Rangappa wrote: “As an experiment, I’d love for an @SouthwestAir pilot to say “Long live ISIS” before taking off. My guess is that 1) the plane would be immediately grounded; 2) the pilot fired; and 3) a statement issued by the airline within a matter of hours.”
Southwest Airlines Let’s Go Brandon video
A TikTok video has surfaced of what appears to be a Southwest pilot uttering the phrase over the plane’s intercom system. However, it’s not immediately clear from the clip below that it’s from this specific flight. And comments from TikTokers also suggest more than one Southwest pilot has done this, though those are unconfirmed reports.
Let’s Go Brandon meme
The same blue check brigade members who have spent five years arguing Colin Kaepernick should be able to make political statements in uniform at work are demanding a Southwest Airlines pilot be fired for allegedly saying “Let’s go Brandon,” on the plane PA.
— Clay Travis (@ClayTravis) November 1, 2021
The attack from Rangappa, meanwhile, ignores the fact that an insult is not all this phrase represents. The Let’s Go Brandon meme is also an assertion by conservatives of perceived media bias, given the circumstances surrounding what birthed the phrase to begin with.
The origin can be traced to an October 2 NASCAR race Brandon Brown won at the Talladega Superspeedway. Sportscaster Kelli Stavast interviewed Brown after the phrase. At one point, she noted how the crowd seemed to be chanting in his honor: ‘Let’s go, Brandon!”
That’s not actually what the crowd was chanting, however. The crowd was very clearly addressing President Biden, not Brandon. Only, with an f-bomb in front of his name instead of “Let’s go!” Conservatives have long believed that mainstream media is skewed against them, and this seemed to be clear evidence. The virality of the Let’s Go Brandon meme was thus assured from the get-go.
The left, meanwhile, has latched onto the widespread use of this phrase as portending something ominous:
There is something absolutely chilling about a #SouthwestAirlines pilot signing off with “let’s go Brandon”; it’s the reckless and cult-like behavior that — left unchecked — festers and evolves into actions like people trying to overturn a free and fair election.
— Erich with an “h” 🇺🇸 (@ErichinATL) October 31, 2021
Of course, this ignores the reality of the LGB phrase also being the legitimate expression of opposition against a president whose popularity has plummeted this year. 71% of Americans, for example, think the country is going in the wrong direction, according to a recent poll. And uttering “Let’s Go, Brandon,” of course, is nowhere near on the level of a critic of the president holding up a likeness of his bloodied, severed head, as comedian Kathy Griffin did when President Trump was in office.