On March 28, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law Florida’s Parental Rights In Education bill. The bill would prohibit kindergarten through third-grade educators from talking about things like gender identity and sexual orientation in a way deemed not developmentally appropriate. Critics of the bill believe that the bill unfairly targets the LGBTQ+ community and have dubbed it the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
One of the people who has been outspoken about his opposition to the bill is former Disney CEO Bob Iger. On February 24, President Joe Biden tweeted that he thought the Parental Rights in Education was a “hateful bill” and that he stood with all members of the LGBTQ+ community. Iger retweeted Biden’s tweet and said:
I’m with the President on this! If passed, this bill will put vulnerable, young LGBTQ people in jeopardy.
I'm with the President on this! If passed, this bill will put vulnerable, young LGBTQ people in jeopardy. https://t.co/fJZBzre4yM
— Robert Iger (@RobertIger) February 25, 2022
Iger recently sat down with CNN+ host Chris Wallace and talked to Wallace about why he was so open about his stance on the bill. He made it clear right off the bat that he did not feel that his stance had anything to do with politics. Instead, Iger believed that it was simply “about right and wrong.” Iger said:
“So I happen to feel and I tweeted an opinion about this ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill in Florida. To me, it wasn’t politics, it was what is right and what is wrong, and that just seemed wrong. It seemed potentially harmful to kids. And it seemed as though it would do exactly what it shouldn’t do. And that is to foster compassion, and understanding and acceptance, and enable young kids who might be gay to feel more confident, more comfortable, more part of society, if it could be discussed freely, as opposed to kept in the closet.”
Iger’s quick stance on the bill made many wonder what Disney’s stance would be. While Disney does not frequently comment on pending legislation, the fact that they remained quiet on a bill that would directly impact thousands of its Cast Members angered a lot of people. Disney eventually spoke out, but it was too late to undo the damage, and there were a number of employee walkouts.
When asked about what Disney should have done, Iger said that, when something will have a “profound” impact on your business, you have to do “what is right and not worry about the potential backlash to it.” He also said:
“I think CEOs, you know — one of the things that CEOs accept as a responsibility is that they’re going to have to weigh in on issues, even if voicing an opinion on those issues potentially puts some of your business in danger.”
Current Disney CEO Bob Chapek is currently dealing with anger from both his Cast Members and the state of Florida. Cast Members felt that Chapek did not have their back until he was pressured to. Governor DeSantis and some Florida legislators believe that Disney and Chapek only spoke up in an attempt to be “woke”.
In fact, things between Disney and the state of Florida have gotten so bad that some legislators are considering repealing the Reedy Creek Improvement Act. The Act allows Disney to essentially act as its own government. However, many see the potential repeal as shortsighted. Since Disney currently operates as its own government, it is responsible for all the work that has to be done to its theme parks and Resort hotels. If the act is repealed, the Florida taxpayers may then become responsible for the money that Disney needs for things like road improvements.
Disney has not commented in Iger’s CNN interview.