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Disney Exec Who Trashed Ron DeSantis’ Parental Rights Bill Fired In Major Shake Up At Studio

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OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.


A high-ranking official at Walt Disney Co. who spoke out against a parental rights bill passed by the GOP-led Florida legislature and signed into law by GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis has been ousted from the company amid a major personnel shakeup.

General Entertainment Content chairman Peter Rice, who claimed publicly that he saw “this law as a violation of fundamental human rights,” was fired by Disney CEO Bob Chapek, who himself also publicly rebuked the legislation.

Chapek replaced Rice with one of the CEO’s top lieutenants, Dana Walden. The firing reportedly came as a shock to many in the entertainment world, though reports indicated that Chapek may have believed that Rice was angling for his job.

“Dana is a dynamic, collaborative leader and cultural force who in just three years has transformed our television business into a content powerhouse that consistently delivers the entertainment audiences crave,” the CEO said in an announcement on Friday.

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“Her well-earned reputation for championing creative talent and developing programming that truly captures the cultural zeitgeist has resulted in hit after hit, from ABC’s ‘Abbott Elementary’ and Onyx Collective’s Academy Award-winning ‘Summer of Soul,’ to Hulu Originals like ‘Only Murders in the Building,’ ‘Dopesick,’ ‘The Dropout’ and ‘The Kardashians,'” Chapek continued.

“She and Peter have worked closely together for years to create the best programming in the industry, and I can think of no one better than Dana to lead Disney General Entertainment to even greater heights,” the CEO added.

Rice, meanwhile, put out a memo to staff informing them of his firing, according to Variety.

“Hi everyone, I am incredibly sad that this will be the last ‘weekend read’ that I will be sending you. It has been such a pleasure and a privilege to work alongside each of you here at Disney and many of you at 21st Century Fox,” he wrote.

“I am so proud of the work we have done together, the friendships we have forged and the consistent success we have celebrated. We have the honor of working in the world’s greatest and most creative industry at a time of enormous change,” Rice added.

“In the midst of this, together we have created amazing and award-winning television shows and I am eternally grateful for your kindness and generosity on the journey. As I depart Disney, may I leave you with a last thought: remain committed to excellence and always recognize that our stories are dependent upon the imagination and artistry of the writers, directors, producers, actors, and craftsman that we have engaged to call Disney home,” he said.

“It has been so much fun to collaborate with them to bring their ideas to life. So, while I will no longer be riding along beside you, I wish you happy trails and hope that our paths will cross again,” the memo concluded.

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Both Chapek and Rice publicly rebuked DeSantis and Florida Republicans over a law that bars school teachers from introducing gender fluid and LGBTQ curriculum to students from kindergarten through the third grade. DeSantis argued that kids that young are not able to fully process the nuances of such sexually charged materials and therefore should not be subjected to them.

In response to Disney’s public criticism, the governor and the Florida legislature passed additional measures stripping Disney of its special self-governing status at its massive theme park in Orlando.

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Speaking at Seminole State College in Sanford, Fla., in mid-May, DeSantis reiterated his promise that the state’s taxpayers will not take on Walt Disney World’s debt when and if the Reedy Creek Improvement District (RCID) dissolves in 2023.

The Republican governor suggested that some legislative measures may be put in place to prevent that from happening.

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“I can tell you this, that debt will not end up going to any of these local governments. It’s not going to go to the state government, either. It’s going to absolutely be dealt with by (Disney and other businesses) that are currently in that district,” DeSantis said.

“We’re going to have a proposal to kind of make sure that that’s clear,” DeSantis said. “More likely that the state will simply assume control and make sure that we’re able to impose the law and make sure we’re collecting the taxes.”

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