Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is firing back at the House of Mouse after The Walt Disney Company’s returning CEO, Bob Iger, said he was sorry the brand was “dragged” into a political fight in the Sunshine State.
DeSantis made the remarks during an interview Tuesday evening with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson.
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Carlson played a clip of Iger, who, upon returning to his role as Disney’s chief executive in the wake of his predecessor Bob Chapek’s tumultuous tenure, said, “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.”
“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 added during a town-hall event with Disney staffers. “That is something I’m extremely mindful of and will articulate if I get the chance.”
DeSantis, unsurprisingly, sees the tête-à-tête between Florida lawmakers and Disney leaders a bit differently.
The war of words between Disney and Florida centers on the state’s recently enacted Parental Rights in Education Act, a law prohibiting educators in the public school system from teaching kids in pre-K through third-grade classrooms about gender identity and sexual orientation.
Under Chapek’s leadership, The Walt Disney Company bowed to external political pressure. The ex-CEO condemned Florida lawmakers and DeSantis for advancing what many in the media dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay bill,” despite the fact the then-proposal placed no prohibition on such verbiage.
“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 They threatened to get it repealed.”
DeSantis was referring to a statement released by Disney in late March, when the entertainment company said its “goal” was to see the law “repealed by the legislature or struck down in the courts, and we remain committed to supporting the national and state organizations working to achieve that.”
“These are parents’ rights, important policies in our state that are very popular,” the governor added. “And so they brought this on themselves. 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.”
All of this comes amid an unimpressive showing for Disney’s latest animated film, “Strange World.” The project cost $180 million and is projected to lose $100 million in its theatrical run, according to Variety. At the center of the story is an openly gay lead character — the first of its kind in a Disney movie geared toward children, though “Lightyear,” an animated spinoff based on the “Toy Story” series, featured a same-sex kiss between two supporting female characters.
Much like “Strange World,” “Lightyear” was met with an underwhelming box-office debut.
As The Gospel Coalition reported, “Lightyear” was “a watershed moment” for Disney, making the company’s ambitions clear. And with the blatantly LGBT-inspired storyline of “Strange World,” writer Brett McCracken wrote, “The media conglomerate no longer hides its social conditioning aims.”
But with such unimpressive numbers, Iger is facing an uphill battle as the newly reinstalled head of the nearly 100-year-old icon of family entertainment.
During the same town-hall event this week, Iger pledged to “quiet things down” politically and work toward neutralizing the culture war in which Disney has inserted itself.
When he was asked specifically about Florida’s parental rights law, he said Disney will continue supporting “inclusion,” but noted the company has to find a “delicate balance” between advocating for its own political interests while also having “respect for the people that [it’s] serving.”
As commentator and writer Christopher Rufo noted, Iger’s comments certainly seem to signal “a retreat” from the leftist push seen during Chapek’s brief stint as Disney’s chief executive.
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