Disney's CEO Bob Iger has responded after Gov. Ron DeSantis and a handpicked board took actions to strip Disney of some powers over the land that Disney World calls home in Central Florida.
Iger said the moves have been "anti-business." The CEO believes Gov. DeSantis has taken apparent retaliation measures against Disney for its position on legislation in that state.
Disney took a position on the state's House Bill 1557, colloquially known as the "Don't Say Gay" legislation. The new law took effect in July 2022 and prohibits certain discussions on sexuality and gender in classrooms in Florida. Employees with Disney asked that the company publicly take a stance on the legislation, and Disney spoke out against it.
During the company's annual shareholder meeting on Monday, Iger said Disney loves Florida and appreciates what the state has done for the company.
Gov. DeSantis wrote a letter to Florida’s Chief Inspector General Melina Miguel accusing the board for the Reedy Creek Improvement District of various ethical violations, alleging it had tried to block his efforts to gain more power over it.
Reedy Creek's district of control is around 25,000 acres in Florida that services around 24 landowners, including "Walt Disney Co. and its wholly-owned affiliates," according to the board.
Miguel was appointed by DeSantis in 2019.
Iger said a company, like Disney, has the right to freedom of speech just like individuals do and called the moves by entities in Florida to claw at more power a punishment of a company for exercising its constitutional right.
During a proponent presentation of a statement from the National Legal and Policy Center at the shareholder meeting on Monday, a speaker read from a statement which said, "Upon his return at the end of last year, Mr. Iger said about the company's critical relationship with the state of Florida: 'to the extent that I can work to kind of quiet things down, I'm going to do that.' But instead, we saw, last week, Mr. Iger escalate hostilities against the sunshine state regarding the district."
The CEO said Disney is the largest tax payer in the state of Florida and revealed that Disney plans to invest over $17 billion into Disney World over the next decade.
Iger said what is happening against Disney in the state sounds not only anti-business, but "anti-Florida."
A shareholder spoke up in the meeting and said they disagreed that Disney has "an obligation to take political positions that are detrimental to the overall company."
A Reason magazine analysis reported that because HB 1557 was initially intended to restrict discussions about sexual orientation and gender identity in "all public school classrooms in the state," the legislation could be seen as "censorship."
Many see the law as never having had the intention of shielding the topics of gender identity and sexual orientation from only the youngest students.
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