On March 9, Disney held its Annual Shareholders Meeting to discuss a number of company issues. One of those issues was the Florida bill dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay Bill,” which has passed both the Florida House and the Florida Senate. The bill would prohibit educators from talking about things like sexual orientation and gender identities in all K through 3 classrooms. The bill has been decried by many, and Disney has been criticized for remaining largely quiet about it. Disney attempted to make a statement after mounting pressure, but it fell flat. A lot of people thought that it didn’t say much.
During the Shareholders Meeting, Disney CEO Bob Chapek made a more forceful statement. Chapek said that Disney had always been against the bill and that they thought the relationships they had with certain politicians would have made a difference. He said that he had spoken to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and that the two would be meeting to discuss the bill — formerly called the Parental Rights in Education Bill. Chapek also said that Disney would be donating $5 million to the Human Rights Campaign. That donation was rejected by the HRC.
Many were pleased to hear that Bob Chapek would be meeting with the Governor. However, Governor DeSantis didn’t seem to act like that meeting would actually happen. The same day that Chapek announced the meeting, a spokesperson for DeSantis issued the following statement:
Governor DeSantis has always been open to hearing from Floridians and having conversations about legislation — as long as those discussions are grounded in facts, not false media narratives. Anyone who has questions or concerns about the Parental Rights in Education bill is encouraged to read the bill rather than the distorted coverage in mainstream media, which regurgitates false partisan talking points.
Disney contacted our office today to speak with the governor. This is the first time we have heard from Disney regarding HB 1557. The governor did take a call from Mr. Chapek. The governor’s position has not changed. No in-person meeting has been scheduled yet.
Disney is a family-friendly company that creates wholesome entertainment for kids. The same Florida parents who take their families to Disney also support parental rights in education, because they do not want their young children exposed to inappropriate content about sex and gender theory at school.
While the statement seems pretty tame, DeSantis’ ire at being called out by Disney seems to have increased. DeSantis is now slamming Disney for the business relationship that it has with China. China is a communist country and has frequently been accused of human rights violations. According to The Independent, which reported on the comments made:
Companies like Disney, he said, who “criticise the fact that we don’t want transgenderism in kindergarten and first grade classrooms, if that’s the hill that they’re gonna to die on, then how do they possibly explain lining their pockets with their relationship from the communist party of China? They don’t say a word about the really brutal practices that you see over there at the hands of the CCP,” he said.
DeSantis was not the first person to call out Disney that day. During the Shareholders Meeting, a proposal was voted on that asked Disney to be more transparent about its dealings with countries that have been accused of human rights violations. The proposal also asked that Disney’s leadership explain the human rights impact that its dealings with these countries have. The proposal was voted down.