Southwest investigating claim pilot said ‘Let’s go Brandon’ before takeoff

Southwest Airlines has launched an internal investigation after one of its pilots allegedly said the phrase “Let’s go Brandon,” before taking off on a flight from Houston to Albuquerque, New Mexico, on Friday morning.

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The phrase, which has become code on social media for swearing at President Joe Biden, is based on NBC sportscaster Kelli Stavast’s mishearing of a chant at a NASCAR Xfinity Series race last month in Alabama.

As Stavast was interviewing driver Brandon Brown, some in the crowd were chanting “F*** Joe Biden.” Stavast explained that the crowd was cheering Brown, saying “you can hear the chants from the crowd, ‘Let’s go, Brandon!’”

An Associated Press reporter was on the Friday flight and said she heard the pilot say “Let’s go, Brandon” over the public address system in the plane.

According to Colleen Long, there were gasps from some passengers.

Long, who was writing a story about the origins of the term and how it had spread, said she tried to ask the pilot about what was said, but was “almost removed from [the] plane”.

Southwest issued a statement on Twitter on Sunday afternoon saying it “takes pride in providing a welcoming, comfortable, safe and respectful environment for the millions of customers who fly with us each year.

“Southwest does not condone employees sharing their personal political opinions while on the job, serving our customers. And one employee’s individual perspective should not be interpreted as the viewpoint of Southwest and its collective 54,000 employees.

“Southwest is conducting an internal investigation into the recently reported event.”

The phrase has been heard during the past month in several places, including on the floor of the House of Representatives when Florida Rep. Bill Posey, R-Rockledge, ended a floor speech saying the phrase and pumping his fist.

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

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted the phrase last month, as well.

Karen North, a professor of digital media at the University of Southern California, told The New York Times that such a phrase “has the fun of being an inside joke or meme and the power of being a rallying cry at the same time.”

North, who worked for the Clinton administration, added that such phrases generally play out quickly.

“Because new trends and memes spread so much more quickly,” she added, “people have something new to jump to more quickly.”