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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis pushed back on statements made by reinstated Walt Disney Co. CEO Bob Iger after the entertainment chief reflected last week on the conflict between Sunshine State Republicans and the media behemoth.
DeSantis, who won reelection last month in a landslide, responded to a video clip of Iger during an appearance on Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s program on Tuesday evening, in which Iger, who recently replaced the tumultuous tenure of former CEO Bob Chapek, claimed Disney was “dragged into” a fight with DeSantis and the GOP legislature over the “Parental Rights in Education” law.
“I was sorry to see us dragged into that battle. And I have no idea exactly what its ramifications are in terms of the business itself,” Iger said during a town-hall event with Disney staffers.
“What I can say is, the state of Florida has been important to us for a long time, and we have been very important to the state of Florida,” Iger noted. “That is something I’m extremely mindful of and will articulate if I get the chance.”
DeSantis was quick to respond that it wasn’t him or his GOP-controlled legislature that picked a fight with Disney, but actually, it was the other way around.
“We didn’t drag them in, Tucker,” the Florida governor told Carlson. “They went in on their own and not only opposed the bill. They threatened to get it repealed.”
“These are parents’ rights, important policies in our state that are very popular. And so they brought this on themselves,” he continued. “All we did was stand up for what’s right. And, yes, they’re a big, powerful company. But you know what? We stand up for our folks. And I don’t care what a Burbank-based California company says about our laws.”
— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) November 30, 2022
Iger’s return to Disney comes amid rising criticism with Disney’s increasing pivot to so-called “woke” content, which has not done well at the box office.
“The company was also criticized for featuring a lesbian kiss in kids’ movie ‘Lightyear,’ showing a transgender man purchasing tampons in a TV series, and emphatically embracing the trend of Environmental, Social, and Governance, a strategy that courts investors by promoting a host of woke values within the corporate structure,” the Daily Wire reported last month.
The outlet added: “Disney stock has fallen over 40% over the last year amid an ailing economy. It’s woes have been blamed on a series of decisions that have alienated its family-minded and in many cases, conservative, customer base. The company clashed bitterly with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis over a law that prohibits public schools from teaching kids below the fourth grade about sexual orientation and radical gender theory.”
Iger appeared to address all of that during his event with Disney employees.
“Do I like the company being embroiled in controversy? Of course not. It can be distracting, and it can have a negative impact on the company. And to the extent that I can work to quiet things down, I’m going to do that,” Iger said.
EXCLUSIVE: I have obtained video from returning Disney CEO Bob Iger's first town hall with employees, in which he signals that he will work to "quiet things down" politically and move toward neutrality in the culture war.https://t.co/ZBGdHhxFVS pic.twitter.com/ZbMCZN4MlG
— Christopher F. Rufo ⚔️ (@realchrisrufo) November 29, 2022
Initially, Disney did not take a position on the legislation, but under pressure from investors and employees, the company relented and came out in full-throated opposition to the legislation. Furthermore, then-CEO Bob Chapek said his company would end political donations in the Sunshine State.
Republicans in the state legislature also moved earlier this year to dismantle the Reedy Creek Improvement District, which allowed Disney to oversee its own zoning, infrastructure, laws, and policing in the area around its parks, a move that DeSantis eagerly embraced.
“What I would say as a matter of the first principle is I don’t support special privileges in law just because a company is powerful and they’ve been able to wield a lot of power,” DeSantis said at the time.
“I think what has happened is there’s a lot of these special privileges that are not justifiable, but because Disney had held so much sway, they were able to sustain a lot of special treatment over the years,” he added.