Ex-FBI Agent Equates 'Let's Go Brandon' Chant with Proclaiming 'Long Live ISIS'


“Let’s go Brandon” has gone airborne thanks to a Southwest Airlines pilot — and, to a former FBI agent who’s now in a media gig. To this ex-FBI agent, the use of this phrase is essentially similar to that pilot declaring his allegiance to a terrorist organization.

In a tweet on Saturday, CNN’s Asha Rangappa compared the pilot’s statement over the 737’s PA system to a captain announcing “Long live ISIS” before departure, after a TikTok video of the unnamed pilot went viral last week.

For those just emerging from a coma or a three-year retreat at a Buddhist monastery, let’s ensure we’re on the same page here. Throughout the summer and fall, chants of “f*** Joe Biden” have been breaking out at sporting events and other mass gatherings.

Last month, 28-year-old Brandon Brown won his first race in NASCAR’s second-tier Xfinity Series. It took him over 100 races to get his first checkered flag, but you can’t say the win wasn’t a memorable one. In fact, Brown became the namesake of a political meme after a reporter mistook a “f*** Joe Biden” chant for something else:

WARNING: The following video contains vulgar language that some viewers will find offensive.

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Since then, “let’s go Brandon” has become a polite way of saying an impolite thing about the president. On Friday, a Southwest Airlines pilot reportedly said it during a Houston-Albuquerque flight.

Do you think Asha Rangappa should be fired from her role at CNN?

“We’re heading east at about 107 or 108 mph,” the pilot said in a clip available on TikTok. “Clear visibility, mostly clear skies, 77 degrees. Thanks for coming out and flying Southwest Airlines. Welcome aboard, and remember let’s go Brandon.”

In addition to the clip going viral on TikTok, the incident was amplified by Associated Press reporter Colleen Long, who said she was aboard the flight.

On Sunday, Long’s byline appeared on an article titled “How ‘Let’s Go Brandon’ became code for insulting Joe Biden” in which she called it “all the rage among Republicans wanting to prove their conservative credentials, a not-so-secret handshake that signals they’re in sync with the party’s base.” She also mentioned the Southwest incident, although she didn’t identify herself as a passenger on-board the flight.

Southwest said in a statement the carrier “takes pride in providing a welcoming, comfortable, and respectful environment” and that “behavior from any individual that is divisive or offensive is not condoned.”

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There have been a range of reactions to the pilot’s alleged let’s-go-Brandoning. Long apparently asked them to open the locked cockpit, which, yes, does sound a bit insane. (So does reporting on the incident for the AP without acknowledging one was on the flight, which goes against Media Ethics 101.)

On the other side, according to the U.K. Daily Mail, one Twitter user said, “If they fire the guy, I’ll walk before I get on a [Southwest Airlines] plane. And I travel for a living.” While this may indeed be great for fitness, so’s a Peloton, and you can probably get one of those if you keep your job, which you won’t have if you try to travel from St. Louis to Laredo on foot.

Overheated reactions — be they from blue check marks or not — are unsurprising, given the situation. I generally don’t begrudge anybody for having one. Heck, I’ll even admit to being torn about the situation.

On one hand, I have the luxury of not only having a job where I can freely express my political opinion to customers, but getting paid to do it. Most of us aren’t in that position — and that’s especially true for certain jobs where a high degree of trust is required, including that of an airline pilot. On the other hand, if there was a Trump-related version of “let’s go Brandon” and a pilot was caught on video broadcasting it over the PA system, picture the hue and cry if they were fired.

So, yes, I’m willing to give a wide latitude for Southwest pilot/“let’s go Brandon” hot takes. Even then, CNN’s Asha Rangappa’s tweet on the matter is so deranged one could safely argue there ought to be employment-related consequences associated with it:

“As an experiment, I’d love for an @SouthwestAir pilot to say ‘Long live ISIS’ before taking off,” Rangappa tweeted Saturday.

“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.”

Yes, Asha, here’s what would happen if the pilot said “long live ISIS” before taking off:

  1. The plane would immediately be grounded.
  2. The pilot would be fired.
  3. A statement would be issued by the airline, and not in a matter of hours.

Here’s what you clearly don’t get, at least if you’re peddling that odious parallel:

  1. Expressing disdain for Joe Biden isn’t pledging support for a terrorist group.

You’d think a cable news contributor, even at CNN, would know these things — especially when that contributor is a former FBI agent.

Yes, that’s right: Rangappa was once a federal law enforcement official, and she believes a pilot pledging support for a terrorist group known for making videos in which the infidels are beheaded is materially similar to a pilot saying a phrase which means “f*** Joe Biden.” To her, saying those three magic words makes you a national threat. I’m not sure whether I’m unsettled CNN is employing her or happy that gig, in part, keeps her away from potentially surveilling every person who tweets the hashtag #letsgobrandon for possible domestic terrorist sympathies.

I’m not the only one who thinks Rangappa is deranged, either:

Well, GOP Texas Sen. Ted Cruz included the whole network, but the thought holds: “And no, as a factual matter, supporting genocidal religious zealots is not the same as disagreeing with the current President.”

Rangappa is now painting herself as the victim because “some right-wing site has posted an article about me” and she’s been receiving a flood of “hateful, racist, and misogynistic emails.”

As ugly as these messages are, it’s necessary to point out this argument is one of the weakest there is: The contents of any journalist’s email inbox would be sufficient evidence to convict their ideological opponents of virtually any charge in the court of public opinion, no matter how outlandish.

I say this as an oatmeal-bland commentary writer who doesn’t go out of his way to be inflammatory and has a few hundred Twitter followers. Rangappa has 687,500 followers on the platform, where she just made a direct comparison between a public display of anti-Biden sentiment and support for the Islamic State group.

No argument is proved by the fact a small number of bigoted crazies found their way to her inbox after that comparison, the same way they often find their way to mine for saying far less contentious things — and if anyone knows exactly what they’re doing here, it’s the person who tweets something incendiary to more than half a million followers and then holds up a handful of vile messages as proof their original point was well made.

This isn’t to advocate for someone’s ability to say “let’s go Brandon” anywhere, anytime, without any consequences — particularly if you’re representing a company or organization. The same, however, goes for comparing people who utter the phrase to terror sympathizers.

If that person is a CNN analyst whose entrée to the world of blue-check journo-dom came, in part, through working as a federal law enforcement official, and those consequences don’t come, we can safely make some assumptions about what the network is willing to tolerate.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture