In an interview with CNBC that will be aired at 7 p.m. ET later tonight (August 14), Governor Ron DeSantis says he has “moved on” from his battles with The Walt Disney Company and wants the whole issue to be dropped.
DeSantis to Disney: ‘Drop the Lawsuit’
Speaking with Brian Sullivan, the Florida Governor urged the company to give up on ongoing legal battles instigated after a series of events caused the relationship between Disney and DeSantis to deteriorate.
We’ve basically moved on. They’re suing the state of Florida. They are going to lose that lawsuit. So what I would say is: drop the lawsuit. You have the state that even CNBC ranks as number one of all 50 states for economy.
DeSantis made the argument that he has been helping Disney financially succeed in Florida, alluding to the COVID-19 pandemic, in which restrictions such as closures, mask policies, and social distancing were mostly unenforced.
No one has made Disney more money recently than me because during COVID, they were open in Florida. They were locked shut in California, we said we want you guys to operate because we understood how important it was that their Cast Members in Central Florida had the ability to make ends meet. In fact, when Disney closed their parks — I didn’t tell them to close, they did voluntarily — we got all their employees’ information, we ran them through unemployment. We helped them stay afloat until they were open again.
The Governor was asked directly if he’d simply be willing to give Disney CEO Bob Iger a call, and he responded:
Apart from Florida, Disney’s had a lot of problems, and I think that the skirmish they got in with these young kids, I think that’s a symptom of why they’re not doing as well, because I think parents have lost some confidence that this is the company that’s really speaking to what they want…Let’s move forward, I’m totally fine with that, but I’m not fine with giving extraordinary privileges to one special company at the exclusion of everybody else.
A clip of the Governor’s comments is viewable below:
Most recently, Governor DeSantis and his legal team claimed immunity again, seeking to have the Disney lawsuit tossed out of court on that basis. The Walt Disney Company is suing for “declaratory and injunctive relief.” Injunctive relief forces a party to act in a certain way or prevents them from doing various things. An “injunction” is sometimes known as a restraining order.
Attorneys for DeSantis state that neither the governor nor the Secretary of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity “have specific, formal power to enforce the challenged laws,” and that as a result, Disney “lacks standing and cannot overcome the State Defendants’ sovereign immunity” and its claims are also “barred by legislative immunity.”
A History of the Disney-DeSantis Feud
The Florida Governor and Walt Disney Company initially clashed over the corporation’s opposition to a much-debated and controversial Florida law regarding classroom instruction and discussion on sexual orientation and gender identity in public schools, alongside various other recent state laws and proposals in a similar vein.
Bob Chapek was Chief Executive Officer at the time and initially remained silent and passive on the issue — until massive internal criticisms from Cast Members, the LGBTQ+ community, and controversy over Disney’s practice of making hefty political contributions to campaigns and individuals allegedly against their own stated human principles came into focus.
In an apparent act of retribution over Chapek’s expression of dissent, the Governor moved forward with various verbal and legal assaults on Disney, including the dissolution of the Reedy Creek Improvement District and eventual transfer of power directly under his control. DeSantis argues he is attacking an incredibly vague perception of something he calls “woke politics,” allegedly invading the state — frequently stating his intention to put the people of Florida first through these actions and the newly-formed CFTOD board:
Disney has gotten away with special deals from the state of Florida for way too long. It took a look under the hood to see what Disney has become to truly understand their inappropriate influence.
Every member of this governing body has been a handpicked ally of the Governor thus far, including a Christian nationalist and lawyer who donated $50,000 to the DeSantis gubernatorial campaign, among others. In May, an administrator for the district (Glen Gilzean) was also appointed, with a significantly increased $400,000 salary directly related to ongoing DeSantis-led legal fights regarding Disney and several other issues around the state. The legal expenditures made by the Governor are being funded by Florida taxpayers.
Critics worry the role and its new incumbent could be weaponized for further orchestrated attacks, fines, and intentionally disruptive impediments on Walt Disney World, and that Gilzean himself is essentially receiving compensation to be aligned with the Governor’s whims. Daniel Langley, special general council for the district, alternatively describes the Administrator as “another tool in the toolbox for enforcement.”
Currently, Gilzean is the Chair of Florida’s Commission on Ethics, a position Governor Ron DeSantis appointed him to. The Commission “renders legally binding advisory opinions interpreting the ethics laws and implements the State’s financial disclosure laws.” Recently, it rejected a complaint from the MAGA Inc. Super PAC backing Donald Trump, which claimed DeSantis was violating campaign finance laws and running a “shadow” campaign for President (via AP News).
After heated exchanges and dramatic actions taken by the Governor alleged to be intentionally harmful punishments, The Walt Disney Company sued him and his newly handpicked board not long after Bob Iger’s return as CEO, citing a “targeted campaign of government retaliation — orchestrated at every step by Governor DeSantis as punishment for Disney’s protected speech.” The plaintiff argues that this chronology of events “threatens Disney’s business operations, jeopardizes its economic future in the region, and violates its constitutional rights.”
Disney regrets that it has come to this, but having exhausted efforts to seek a resolution, the Company is left with no choice but to file this lawsuit to protect its cast members, guests, and local development partners from a relentless campaign to weaponize government power against Disney in retaliation for expressing a political viewpoint unpopular with certain State officials.
Ron DeSantis insists he will double down on efforts to punish the resort through methods both in the Legislature and the Central Florida Tourism Oversight Board. Notably, he promised to raise hotel taxes and institute tolls on the roads around Walt Disney World Resort property, and suggested the idea of building a prison on space directly beside Disney land. Additionally, a bill was passed mandating state inspections of the resort’s monorails.
There’s a lot of little back-and-forths going on now with the state taking control, but rest assured, you know, you ain’t seen nothing yet. There’s more to come in that regard.