Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis addressed on Thursday the suggestion of repealing a 55-year-old state law that allows Disney to effectively govern itself on the grounds of Walt Disney World, following the company’s public opposition to a controversial parental rights law in Florida.
"What I would say as a matter of first principle is I don’t support special privileges in law just because a company is powerful, and they’ve been able to wield a lot of power," DeSantis said during a press conference in West Palm Beach, Florida on Thursday.
Disney has been engaged in a war of words with Republicans in Florida leading up to Monday’s signing of the controversial bill, which prohibits classroom instruction on "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" with children in third grade or younger "or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards."
DeSantis referenced a bill reining in big tech that Republicans were working through the legislature last year when Disney added a "carve out" at the "11th hour" for theme parks.
"I’m thinking to myself, ‘This is ridiculous,’" DeSantis said. "Honestly, it was embarrassing."
DeSantis continued, "I think what has happened is there’s a lot of these special privileges that are not justifiable, but because Disney had held so much sway, they were able to sustain a lot of special treatment over the years."
DeSantis said that Disney has "lost a lot of the pull that they used to have" over the company's reaction to the parental rights law and said he thinks that’s a "good thing for our state because the state should be governed by the best interest of the people."
"I would say any special privileges that are in law I would like to get rid of generally," DeSantis added. "I think in this particular case with Disney, I just don’t think you have very many people in the legislature anymore who are going to be able to defend a lot of what has been done over many years to really have them almost govern themselves in some of these things. That was probably never appropriate to start, but is certainly not appropriate now at this point."
Cinderella Castle under construction (Photo from DisneyParks Blog)
"Yesterday was the 2nd meeting in a week w/fellow legislators to discuss a repeal of the 1967 Reedy Creek Improvement Act, which allows Disney to act as its own government," Roach tweeted. "If Disney wants to embrace woke ideology, it seems fitting that they should be regulated by Orange County."
After DeSantis signed the school-related bill this week, Disney released a statement slamming the legislation.
"Florida’s HB 1557, also known as the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, should never have passed and should never have been signed into law," Disney said. "Our goal as a company is for this law to be repealed by the legislature or struck down in the courts, and we remain committed to supporting the national and state organizations working to achieve that. We are dedicated to standing up for the rights and safety of LGBTQ+ members of the Disney family, as well as the LGBTQ+ community in Florida and across the country."
The bill has been dubbed the "Don’t Say Gay" bill by Democrats and media outlets, though it does not ban mention of the word.
DeSantis responded to Disney’s Monday criticism and said the company "crossed the line."
"This state is governed by the interest of the people of the state of Florida. It is not based on the demands of California corporate executives," DeSantis said. "They do not run this state. They do not control this state."
Recent polling has shown that the bill is popular among Florida voters, including 52% of likely voters in the Democratic primary who say that they oppose the kind of teaching that the bill prohibits.