Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Disney have been locked in a bitter feud over the past year, with each side accusing the other of violating their rights and interests. The conflict has escalated to lawsuits, legislation and public statements that reveal the deep divide between the conservative politician and the entertainment giant.
The feud began when Disney openly opposed a bill that DeSantis signed into law last year, which banned the discussion of sexuality in grade school. The bill, dubbed by some critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, was seen by Disney as an attack on its values and employees. Disney issued a statement saying that it was “deeply disappointed” by the bill and that it would “continue to stand up for the rights of our LGBTQ+ cast members and guests.”
DeSantis retaliated by revoking Disney’s self-governing status, which had been granted to the company in 1967 by Florida lawmakers. The status allowed Disney to have its own government district, called Reedy Creek Improvement District, which gave it authority over zoning, building codes, taxes and other matters on its land. DeSantis argued that Disney had abused its privileges and had not fulfilled its promises to build communities and cities where people could live and work.
DeSantis also sued Disney for “retaliation” and violating his First Amendment rights over free speech. He claimed that Disney had tried to silence him and influence the political system in Florida. He said that Disney had “exercised a lot of political influence in this town” and had “tried to fight us on things like parents’ rights and things that are really important to the people of Florida.”
Disney fought back by countersuing DeSantis for violating its First Amendment rights over free speech. It claimed that DeSantis had acted out of spite and had interfered with its business operations. It also said that DeSantis had violated the contract that established Reedy Creek Improvement District and had breached the trust of millions of Floridians who visit Disney World every year.
The legal battle is still ongoing, but DeSantis has declared victory over silencing Disney. In a recent interview with Newsmax, he said that Disney had not been politically active since their “skirmish” last year. He said that Disney had “not made a peep” about any of his policies and that “the party is over for them.” He added that he had not spoken to the current Disney CEO Bob Iger and that he did not care about what Disney thought of him.
Disney has not responded to DeSantis’ latest comments, but it has continued to operate its theme parks and resorts in Florida. It has also announced plans to expand its presence in the state with new attractions, hotels and entertainment offerings. However, some analysts have speculated that Disney may consider moving some of its operations out of Florida if the feud with DeSantis worsens.
The feud between DeSantis and Disney has raised questions about the future of Florida’s economy, culture and politics. Some observers have praised DeSantis for standing up to a powerful corporation and defending his conservative agenda. Others have criticized him for alienating a major employer and tourism driver in the state and harming its reputation as a welcoming and diverse destination.