Florida’s DeSantis Disney Butt Heads for LGBTQ Schools Bill

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Walt Disney Co. is suspending political donations in Florida after the company’s CEO received huge backlash for not using Disney’s vast influence in the state to try to cancel a recently passed Republican bill that would prevent teachers from instructing first years on LGBTQ issues.

The bill sparked a spat between the Florida tourism giant and Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who accused the company of being friendly with communist China.

On Friday afternoon, Disney CEO Bob Chapek released a statement online and emailed employees saying the company was wrong to remain silent on the issue before the Legislature dominated by Republicans only pass what opponents have dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

Republican lawmakers had argued that parents, not teachers, should be the ones talking to their children about gender issues during their early formative years. The bill prohibits teaching about “sexual orientation or gender identity” in kindergarten through 3rd grade.

DeSantis, who has indicated his support for the measure, is now facing calls to veto it for the two weeks he is due to do so, but is pushing back on the pressure.

Chapek said the bill was a challenge to human rights and apologized for not acting sooner. Meanwhile, DeSantis sent out a campaign fundraising email that read, “Disney is way too deep with the Chinese Communist Party and has lost all moral authority to tell you what to do.”

Disney poured huge sums of money into political parties and politicians in Florida and wielded incredible influence over the state government.

The governor’s action stunned Republicans and Democrats. The Disney World theme park is a multi-billion dollar economic engine for the state. When people think of Florida, they think of oranges, beaches and Disney.

“The strange hypocrisy of Florida politics right now is that DeSantis was happy to take Disney’s money, but pass a bill that is contrary to the values ​​of their clients and their institution,” said said Rick Wilson, a political operative who has supported Republicans in the past but has spoken out against the culture war that many Republicans are creating.

A Republican lawmaker, who did not want to be nominated because he did not want to speak out publicly against the governor, said Disney was the third-largest contributor to Republican candidates. The company has donated millions to Republicans, both directly to candidates and the party and through political committees that support them with untraceable donations.

Disney also donated to Democrats.

The entertainment company, which opened a theme park in China in 2016 and gained substantial access to that country’s movie market, has been accused by some critics of adjusting its content to appeal to China’s communist rulers and avoid topics that they consider sensitive.

Critics of DeSantis say he is going against the company in a culture war because of his ambitions to win the Republican primary to be the 2024 presidential candidate.

“It’s really quite shocking,” said former Republican Governor Charlie Crist, who is now a Democratic congressman seeking to challenge DeSantis.

Crist said the governor has battled with industries important to Florida, such as DeSantis’ legal battle with cruise lines that wanted passengers to show they were vaccinated against the coronavirus.

“Now it’s Disney. Who’s next on this governor’s blacklist? said Christ.

Democratic U.S. Representative Darren Soto, whose district includes parts of Disney, also questioned the governor’s attack on Disney.

“This is another strike in the hate agenda that Governor DeSantis is pushing right now,” Soto said, adding that the state budget is hugely dependent on the sales tax that Disney and others are pushing. theme parks generate for the state.

“Now he’s jeopardizing that because he wants to attack LGBTQ families, families that are a fundamental part of the Disney atmosphere,” Soto said.