Now, the company acknowledges the one reality that will keep the feud alive for the foreseeable future.
The conflict began with Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Act, which DeSantis signed into law in March of 2022.
The law, known commonly by its opponents as “Don’t Say Gay,” prevented public school teachers from discussing sexual orientation and gender identity issues in class.
Disney has a large number of LGBTQ+ employees. The company publicly disagreed with the legislation, which it said was discriminatory.
The dispute led to very public court proceedings and comments in the media from both sides of the dispute.
That resulted in DeSantis pouncing on a political opportunity, as he solidified his stance against policies that he calls “woke.”
The Dispute Becomes a Campaign Focus
This framing of issues has become a major talking point for the Florida governor in his campaign to win the Republican nomination for president in 2024.
And this, it seems, is what will undoubtedly prolong the feud.
Disney likely has little business interest in becoming part of a high-profile political debate. That would risk alienating a large number of potential customers.
“If you have a blue brand or red brand, regardless, you have less of a brand,” said John Gerzema, chief executive of the Harris Poll, in the New York Times.
The GOP primary campaign season does not end until July 24.
“That is an eternity for Disney, which has zealously tried for 100 years to avoid political and cultural pitfalls for fear of tarnishing its happily-ever-after brand,” wrote the New York Times. “At least in theory, Disney’s family-friendly movies, TV shows and theme park rides are aimed at everyone. The last thing it wants is for Mickey Mouse to get dragged through the presidential campaign mud.”
A DeSantis Advertisement Takes Advantage of the Conflict
One part of the DeSantis strategy involved an advertisement paid for by Never Back Down, a PAC that supports the Florida governor’s presidential campaign.
“Once upon a time, Disney films were for kids, not secret sexual content,” the narrator says.
After a series of other cultural criticisms of other companies, it casts DeSantis as champion of a kind of morality clearly calculated to appeal to a specific type of voter.
“This isn’t a fairy tale. It’s a nightmare,” the narrator continues. “But one man stood up: Ron DeSantis.”
Quotes from DeSantis are then heard.
“We stand for the protection of our children,” he says. “We will fight those who seek to rob them of their innocence. We will never, ever surrender to the woke mob.”
Disney has shown signs it does not intend to be a political punching bag.
For example, the company canceled plans to spend $1 billion on a new headquarters near Disney World. The project reportedly would have brought with it 2,000 high-paying jobs from California.
That’s the sort of thing that would seem to provide ammunition for political opponents of a governor running for president.
Disney CEO Bob Iger has also suggested he might change plans for some of the $17 billion his company had planned to spend in Florida in the coming decade.
Get exclusive access to portfolio managers and their proven investing strategies with Real Money Pro. Get started now.