Delta CEO’s reluctance to say ‘delta variant’ becomes joke fodder on late night TV

Seth Myers cracks a joke about Delta CEO Ed Bastian's reluctance to call the delta variant by that name.
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Seth Myers cracks a joke about Delta CEO Ed Bastian's reluctance to call the delta variant by that name.

Credit: NBC

Credit: NBC

Ed Bastian uses the scientific name or ‘the darn variant.’

Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian’s avoidance of the term “delta variant’ to refer to the fast-spreading coronavirus strain has become joke fodder for late-night talk show hosts.

“I don’t refer to the original variant name,” Bastian told Gayle King Thursday on “CBS This Morning.” “If anything, I call it ‘the darn variant.’ "

In a memo this week, he wrote to encourage employees to get vaccinated. (The company is going to charge an extra $200 a month for unvaccinated employees.)

But Bastian used the scientific term for the variant, not the more common usage of delta. “Over the past few weeks, the fight has changed with the rise of the B.1.617.2 variant — a very aggressive form of the virus,” he wrote. He also called it “the most recent virus variant” and just “the variant.”

Jimmy Fallon on “The Tonight Show” on Thursday cracked several jokes in a row.

“This explains why pilots have been saying, ‘Welcome aboard. Thank you for flying B.1.617.2 Airlines!’” Fallon said.

“Apparently, he’s afraid if he says Delta too many times, the virus will show up like ‘Candyman,’” he added.

Then: “He’s doing anything he can to distance Delta from the variant. He said from now on, our airline is pronounced Del-TAY.”

Finally, he said: “Delta is in a pretty weird situation but another company released a message of support.”

He then showed a mock ad with narration over generic airline imagery: “We sympathize with Delta CEO Ed Bastian. Hang in there. The only piece of advice we can offer is be patient and before long your company name won’t be associated with something so horrific. A message from Ebola Farms Baked Goods and Treats. Put a little Ebola in your day!”

An hour later, on NBC’s “Late Night With Seth Meyers,” Meyers threw out this quickie: “The CEO of Delta Air Lines said in a new interview that he won’t refer to the new coronavirus variant as Delta though I don’t think it’s cool he keeps calling it the Air China virus.”

RuPaul, the former Atlantan and game-show host, was guest hosting on Jimmy Kimmel’s show and didn’t reference Delta at all. Both Stephen Colbert and James Corden were off this week on CBS while Trevor Noah on Comedy Central is taking the summer off from “The Daily Show.”

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