OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is considering revoking the Disney Company’s special “self-governing” status amid continuing fallout over a parental rights law he signed that has been falsely dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
The Republican governor’s response comes amid an increasingly public rebuke of him and the GOP-controlled legislature by Disney following passage of the legislation last month.
DeSantis and the state’s largest employer have been at odds over the “Parental Rights in Education” bill, which bars teachers from talking about sexual orientation and transgender topics with youngsters from kindergarten through the third grade. Republican backers of the bill, including the governor, have defended it, saying such topics are not appropriate for younger children because they are not yet mentally developed enough to handle the intricacies and complexities of those subjects.
The governor signed the measure last week, which prompted Disney to release a statement vowing to assist in the legal effort to get the law overturned by a court.
“Florida’s HB 1557, also known as the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, should never have passed and should never have been signed into law,” said a statement from Disney, which posted the message on its corporate Twitter feed.
“Our goal as a company is for this law to be repealed by the legislature or struck down in the courts, and we remain committed to supporting the national and state organizations working to achieve that,” the statement continued.
But the governor says that the entertainment behemoth “has alienated a lot of people now” during comments to reporters in West Palm Beach on Thursday.
“And so the political influence they’re used to wielding, I think has dissipated. And so the question is, why would you want to have special privileges in the law at all? And I don’t think that we should,” he added.
In an appearance on Fox News’ “Fox & Friends” morning show on Friday, the governor accused Disney of attempting to “impose a woke ideology” on all Floridians. He added that the company should be stopped because if left “unabated” the philosophy would “destroy” the country.
To that point, Fox News reported on Friday:
Some families across the country are reconsidering their previously Disney-friendly stance in their homes or their lives — including the movies, the streaming service, the theme parks and other offerings from the entertainment and media conglomerate.
“It is time to void your household of all things Disney,” Patti Garibay, an Ohio-based parent and grandparent, is executive director and founder of American Heritage Girls, a faith-focused alternative to the Girl Scouts, told the network.
“Walt Disney most often cited his most important lesson as that of ‘goodwill always triumphs over evil.’ Today’s Disney promotes a full spectrum of lifestyles that rarely align with the biblical values of good and evil, which God calls us to,” she said, adding: “It has been said before and it bears saying again, ‘Walt would turn over in his grave’ to see what his beloved company has become.”
A Tennessee father of a 10-month old daughter told the network, “As a new father, I have decided not to expose my baby to any of Disney’s products — anything they stream, or the theme parks. There are so many other wholesome options for her.”
In time, he added, “I will let her watch the older Disney films on DVD that I was raised on — they taught values that kids need and can understand, things like loyalty, friendship, working through obstacles, and the love of family.”
Regarding Disney’s special status, the New York Post reported that “in 1967, Florida created the Reedy Creek Improvement District, a semi-private, independent governing entity controlled by Disney. It gave the company the power to approve construction projects for its theme parks as well as build and manage the necessary infrastructure to support its operations.”
The report adds:
The district was also empowered to levy its own taxes and then use the revenue to build public services and maintain roadways and bridges.
If the GOP-led state government repeals the law, Disney World and all of its properties would be regulated by Orange and Osceola counties in central Florida.
Disney was initially drawn to Florida in the mid-1960s due to the promise that the company could function as its own government.
“Over many, many decades…they’ve gotten incredible treatment from the Florida legislature and they are treated on a pedestal, this one corporation is treated differently than everybody else,” DeSantis told Fox & Friends.
“That’s not something I’ve ever supported,” he said. “But now in the Legislature, you see a movement to reevaluate those special privileges. And so at the end of the day, I think Disney has gotten over its skis on this.”
“There’s policy disputes and that’s fine, but when you’re trying to impose a woke ideology on our state, we view that as a significant threat,” he added. “This wokeness will destroy this country if we let it run unabated. So in Florida we take a very big stand against that.”