Is Disney Throwing Up the White Flag? CEO Extends Offer to DeSantis After Gov Threatens Taxes
Disney CEO Bob Iger sent a signal that he’s interested in a rapprochement with the state of Florida and its governor, Ron DeSantis, following the Mouse House’s very public stand against the Parental Rights in Education Act last year.
“I do not view this as a going-to-mattresses situation for us,” Iger told Time in an interview published Thursday regarding the ongoing tension, most recently regarding governing authority over the land where Disney’s theme parks reside in the Sunshine State.
“If the governor of Florida wants to meet with me to discuss all of this, of course, I would be glad to do that,” Iger added.
The CEO further explained that he is the type of person “that typically has respected our elected officials and the responsibility that they have” and would see no reason why he and DeSantis could not meet.
The “all of this” Iger mentioned goes back at least to March of 2022, when the governor signed the parental rights bill into law.
The “Don’t Say Gay” bill, as critics labeled it, stands for the basic, widely accepted tenet that students in kindergarten through third grade should not be taught about sexuality and gender identity, and for older students, it should be age-appropriate.
DeSantis told Fox News in February that as governor and the father of a 6-, 4- and 2-year-old, his primary concern was protecting the innocence of kids.
“When this issue came up with the sexualization of the curriculum, of course in Florida we think that that’s inappropriate,” the Republican said.
DeSantis gave credit to the left for trying the Disney angle to get him not to sign the Parental Rights bill “because for 60 years in the state of Florida they have gotten every single thing they want from the state of Florida until I became governor, and we said, ‘No, you’re not running the state of Florida; we’re running the state of Florida.’”
To prove that point, DeSantis signed legislation ending the Disney district’s special self-governing status in Florida the month after approving the parental rights bill.
Further, in February, he signed a bill into law requiring the governor to appoint “a five-member board to oversee the government services that the Disney district provides.”
“Today, the corporate kingdom finally comes to an end,” DeSantis said at a bill-signing ceremony in Lake Buena Vista at the time. “There’s a new sheriff in town, and accountability will be the order of the day.”
I signed legislation to end Disney’s self-governing status, placed the area in state receivership, and appointed 5 members to a state control board.
Disney no longer has its own government, will live under the same laws as everyone else and pay its debts and fair share of taxes. pic.twitter.com/5JnZmEjSdv
— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) February 27, 2023
The new law designates the area, which encompasses the Disney theme parks, as the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District. Previously, it was the Reedy Creek Improvement District, with a board elected by its landowners, with Disney being dominant.
Shortly before its dissolution, the Reedy Creek board voted to strip the district of most of its governing powers and cede them over to the Disney corporation, The Hill reported.
An official with DeSantis’ office told WESH-TV in March that the new agreement made by the outgoing board likely will not stand.
“At an initial glance, the contracts that were shoved through at the last minute are likely void as a matter of law,” the official said in a statement.
DeSantis noted at the time, “There’s a lot of little back and forth going on now with the state control,” adding, “But rest assured — you ain’t seen nothing yet. There’s more to come in that regard.”
Following last year’s controversy between Disney and DeSantis and disappointing box office numbers for “Lightyear” and some other Disney films, the company’s board fired then-CEO Bob Chapek in November and replaced him with Iger, who had been CEO of Disney from 2005 to 2020.
Upon taking the helm, Iger said he planned to “quiet things down” on the political front.
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
Iger told Time, “Our sole goal in Florida is to continue creating that value for all those constituencies. All we want is a relationship with the state that enables us to continue to do that.
“We have the wherewithal and we have the desire to continue to invest there to grow that business so that we can hire more people so that we can increase our attendance, and so that we can basically increase more value for the Walt Disney Company and for the state of Florida,” he added.
“It’s that simple.”
Well, here’s hoping Iger can get the company with a storied history — literally and figuratively — back onto firm, family-friendly ground.
Today, Disney debuts a Super Bowl LVII commercial celebrating 100 Years of storytelling and shared memories: https://t.co/gfw85Azn50 pic.twitter.com/Um4VfllYHW
— The Walt Disney Company (@WaltDisneyCo) February 12, 2023
Leave the culture wars for those in the political arena to fight.
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