Georgia lt. governor defends denying Delta perk

FILE- In this Jan. 30, 2017, file photo, bags sit on a belt at Delta Air Lines baggage claim in Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta. Georgia lawmakers punished Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines on Thursday, March 1, 2018, for its decision to cut business ties with the National Rifle Association in the wake of a shooting at a Florida high school that killed over a dozen people. A tax measure, which was stripped of a jet-fuel tax break, passed the GOP-dominated Senate 44-10. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)

ATLANTA (AP) — The Georgia Republican who led the charge for pro-gun lawmakers to punish Delta Air Lines says they were defending the values of “ridiculed and belittled” conservatives.

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle called Delta a “beloved bedrock” of Georgia’s economy in an opinion piece published Friday by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. But he said Delta’s decision to cut ties with the National Rifle Association sent a clear message to conservatives that “we find your views deplorable.”

Cagle wrote: “We cannot continue to allow large companies to treat conservatives differently than other customers.”

GOP Gov. Nathan Deal has blamed election-year posturing for the Delta controversy. Deal is term-limited and Cagle is a leading Republican candidate to succeed him.

Delta CEO Ed Bastian insisted Friday “we are not taking sides” in the gun debate.