Disney’s Reaction to Florida’s Actions Against the Company: A Response

On Monday, in New York Robert Iger, CEO of Disney, retaliated against Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ moves against his company by calling the state’s recent steps “anti-business.”

Disney has been dethroned from some of its suzerainty over the territory that comprises and envelops Disney World by the state of Florida.

After the corporation objected to a statute restricting talks of LGBTQ problems in Florida schools that was approved last year and was known by its opponents as the “Don’t Say Gay” rule, Florida took action.

When asked about the altercation at the company’s annual shareholders meeting, Iger gave his most blunt condemnation of Florida’s actions and his most public justification of the company’s actions to date.

“Our point on this is that any action that thwarts those efforts simply to retaliate for a position the company took sounds not just anti-business, but it sounds anti-Florida,” he said.

For more than 50 years, Disney has had the extensive ability to regulate land usage in and around its theme park. It did so by means of the Reedy Creek Improvement District, a self-governing organization whose board members all had connections to Disney.

Disney's Reaction to Florida's Actions Against the Company: A Response

Yet following the controversy surrounding the “Don’t Say Gay” bill last year, Florida initially attempted to dissolve the district before realizing that such a move may expose local governments in central Florida to liability for bond issuance of more than $1 billion.

As a result, legislation that gave the state the power to choose the board members was passed earlier this year.

The newly elected board revealed last week that before the bill was passed, the renamed Orange County Tourist Oversight District’s land-use authority had been eliminated and immediately transferred to Disney through a deal with Reedy Creek.

State officials, notably DeSantis, who has been a vociferous opponent of Disney’s conduct, began to criticize Disney again after that.

DeSantis authorized a state probe into the departing board in charge of Disney’s special taxing district on Monday as part of his most recent strike in the ongoing conflict with the media behemoth.

DeSantis accused the Reedy Creek Improvement District board of “collusive and self-dealing arrangements” and vague ethical transgressions in a letter to Florida’s Chief Inspector General Melina Miguel for taking moves that seemed to hinder his attempts to take over the board.

DeSantis’ office also issued a statement stating that “all legislative options are back on the table” as his government looks to regain control and possibly exact revenge on Disney.

“Disney is again fighting to keep its special corporate benefits and dodge Florida law,” DeSantis spokesman Jeremy Redfern said. “We are not going to let that happen. As Governor DeSantis recently said, ‘You ain’t seen nothing yet.’”

Before Iger’s remarks at the shareholder’s meeting, Redfern spoke. In response to Iger’s comments, DeSantis’ office said, “While a company has First Amendment rights, it does not have the right to run its own government and operate outside the bounds of Florida law. The Florida Legislature and Gov. DeSantis worked to put Disney on an even playing field, and Disney got caught attempting to undermine Florida’s duly-enacted legislation in the 11th hour.”

Disney decided to oppose the “Don’t Speak Gay” bill after certain Disney staff members urged the company to do so. Disney “may not have managed the position it took very well,” according to Iger.

“We love the state of Florida,” Iger said. “I think that’s reflected in not only how much we’ve invested over the last 50 years but how much we’ve given back in jobs and community service, taxes, tourism, of course. We’ve also always appreciated what the state has done for us. It’s been a two-way street.”

Iger, though, argued that it was improper for the state to punish Disney for taking its stance.

“The company has a right to freedom of speech just like individuals do,” Iger said. “The governor got very angry about the position that Disney took, and it seems like he’s decided to retaliate against us… in effect to seek to punish a company for its exercise of a constitutional right. And that just seems really wrong to me – against any company or individual, but particularly against a company that means so much to the state that you live in.”

Iger claimed that Disney aims to invest $17 billion in Disney World over the next ten years. He claimed that this investment would create 13,000 new Disney employees and thousands of other indirect jobs, bringing more people to the area and increasing tax revenue.

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Shareholders who had issues about the company’s stance opposing Florida’s law followed up with Iger. One shareholder asked if “it’s wise to take political positions that satisfy a very small portion of people when our primary mission is entertainment?”

Another shareholder objected to the company’s conduct: “Disney has turned from a place of magic for children to an ideological company… increasingly promoting the woke agenda.”

Iger said that doing what’s best for the business also entails doing what’s best for the personnel and fostering their growth.

He claimed that sometimes it speaks out on contentious matters because of the significance to employees, and other times he believes it should not.

He acknowledged being sensitive to allegations that the corporation is “producing agenda-driven content,” particularly from some of the shareholders present at the meeting. Still, he denied this to be the case.

“While I know we’re never going to please everybody all the time… I want parents to be able to trust the content we’re creating for their children, and we’re committed to creating age-appropriate content for family audiences,” he said.

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