Florida Governor Ron DeSantis started a war with Walt Disney that the company’s CEO Bob Iger seems eager to finish.
The right-wing candidate for president has made Disney the example company in the “war on woke” that’s the cornerstone of his campaign. DeSantis has pushed back against any company that supports diversity and inclusion, but he has been particularly hard on Walt Disney (DIS) – Get Free Report despite the company driving billions of dollars of revenue in the state he runs.
DeSantis wants voters to believe that he’s holding Disney accountable for sexualizing children in its movies and television shows (a charge he makes a lot without providing examples). Iger, however, has made it clear that he believes that Florida’s governor has targeted his company because former Disney CEO Bob Chapek spoke out publicly against DeSantis’ so-called “Don’t Say Gay” legislation.
That’s something Iger talked about during Disney’s second-quarter earnings call.
“Regarding Florida, I have got a few things I want to say about that. First of all, I think the case that we filed last month made our position and the facts very clear and that is really that this is about one thing and one thing only and that is retaliating against us for taking a position about pending legislation. And we believe that in us taking that position we are merely exercising our right to free speech,” he said.
That’s the subject of a lawsuit Disney has filed against DeSantis which the governor has made a motion to dismiss. Now, Iger’s company has filed its response to DeSantis’s request to dismiss the case.
DeSantis recently laid off some of his campaign staff.
Disney Fires Back In Federal Court
There are currently two lawsuits making their way through the legal system involving Disney, DeSantis, and the former Reedy Creek Improvement District (RDIC). The governor dissolved the special district that governed the land Disney World sits on and replaced it was a board controlled by him.
Iger has been clear that he sees that move as political retaliation and has spoken about how Florida has thousands of special districts but only Disney’s has been challenged.
In his motion to dismiss Disney’s case, DeSantis’ lawyers try to argue that “the Governor would be covered by a number of executive privilege mechanics such as sovereign immunity, legislative immunity, and Article III standing,” BlogMickey reported.
Disney’s response dismisses the idea that those protections apply and charges that DeSantis “seeks to evade responsibility for his actions…asserting that a Governor cannot be held liable for implementing, administering, and enforcing state laws that punish residents for political statements violating a state-prescribed speech code,” the website reported.
In addition, Disney’s response argues that DeSantis has admitted to multiple injuries to the company including “elimination of its voting rights, abrogation of its contract rights, and chilling of its constitutional right to speak freely on matters of public concern,” according to the filing.
Iger Has Been Aggressive In Defending Disney
Iger has been very clear that his company won’t be the foil for DeSantis’ culture wars. The CEO has already pulled a planned $1 billion investment in Florida — a new planned headquarters that would have involved moving about 2,000 high-paying jobs from California.
He has also been very direct that Disney could pull some of the $17 billion the company plans to spend at Disney World over the next decade.
“We operate responsibly. We pay our fair share of taxes. We employ thousands of people and by the way, we pay them above the minimum wage substantially above the minimum wage dictated by the state of Florida. We also provide them with great benefits and free education, so I’m gonna finish what is obviously kind of a long answer by asking one question. Does the state want us to invest more, employ more people and pay more taxes or not?” he said.
DeSantis has charged that Disney never actually intended to build the headquarters project because it couldn’t afford it. That does not match the reality of the company’s balance sheet nor does it follow that the West Coast workers who would have had to move to Florida had been told of the planned move.