Disney CEO Bob Chapek Apologizes for ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Shut-Up: ‘I Failed You’

Disney CEO Bob Chapek issued a rare mea culpa on Friday after two weeks of criticism of the company’s response to Florida’s controversial “Don’t Say Gay” law.

In full damage control mode, Chapek said via a memo to staff, “Talking to you, reading your messages, and meeting with you has helped me better understand how painful our silence has been,” he wrote. “It is clear that this is not just a law in Florida, but another challenge to fundamental human rights.”

He continued: “You needed me as a stronger ally in the fight for equality and I failed you. I’m sorry.”

Chaepk has taken the heat from some in recent days for remaining silent on the bill that would ban Florida teachers from discussing LGBTQ issues like sexual orientation or gender identity with students until after third grade.

At Disney’s annual shareholder meeting on Wednesday, Chapek said Disney opposes the law and has been fighting behind the scenes to no avail.

He said the company will donate $5 million to Human Rights Campaign organizations working to protect LGTBQ+ rights and he will meet with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to discuss his concerns .

ORLANDO, FLORIDA, UNITED STATES - 2019/07/17: Cinderella Castle at Walt Disney World.
Disney CEO Bob Chapek said he had “let down” LGBTQ employees with the company’s response to the bill.
Roberto Machado Noa

Meanwhile, employees at Pixar, Disney’s animation studio, circulated an angry letter calling Chapek’s previous claims that the company supports LGBTQ rights “hollow.”

They called on Mouse House to stop funding politicians who supported Florida law and accused the company of censoring LGBTQ storylines in Pixar films.

The Human Rights Campaign echoed Pixar employees on the issue of political donations, saying it would not accept the donation, which covered Disney’s face in eggs.

Bob Chapek
Chapek said Friday that Disney will halt all political donations due to Florida’s Don’t Say Gay law.
Chris Jackson

To make matters worse, Chapek’s boss, chairman of Disney General Entertainment Content Peter Rice, said The Hollywood Reporter after the shareholders’ meeting that “the law is a new and painful iteration of a history of discrimination against an already vulnerable group”.

“Personally, I see this law as a violation of basic human rights and I condemn any attempt to marginalize people based on their identity,” he continued. “I appreciate Bob recognizing that we need to do more to support the LGBTQ+ community.”

As part of Friday’s memo, Chapek said Disney would halt all political donations in Florida because of the bill. He added that the company is reviewing its approach to advocacy.

“I missed the mark in this case, but I’m an ally you can count on — and I will be an outspoken advocate for the protection, visibility and opportunities you deserve,” Chapek said.

A child holds a Mickey Mouse stuffed animal at a World of Disney store in the Disneytown retail area of ​​the Walt Disney Co. Disneyland resort in Shanghai, China
Disney has made diversity and inclusion a big part of its corporate policies and storytelling.
Qilai Shen

The entertainment giant has made diversity and inclusion a big part of its corporate policies, culture and storytelling in theme parks, films and TV shows. However, some have said the company’s silence on the bill was its own explanation.

“Our employees see the power of this great company as an opportunity to do good,” said Chapek. “I agree. Yes, we must use our influence to promote this good by telling inclusive stories, but also by standing up for everyone’s rights.”

DeSantis doubled its support for the bill Thursday. Speaking to supporters in Boca Raton, the governor said there was “zero” chances that he would reverse his position on the bill a video from Fox News.

“You have companies like Disney that are going to say and criticize parents’ rights, they’re going to criticize the fact that we don’t want transgenderism in kindergarten in the first grade classrooms,” he said.

Republican Florida gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis speaks to supporters.
Ron DeSantis has lashed out at those who say the bill is anti-LGBTQ+.
John Raux/AP

“If this is the hill they will die on, how do they possibly explain lining their pockets with their association with the Chinese Communist Party? Because they do, and they make a fortune, and they don’t say a word about the really brutal practices that you see at the hands of the CCP over there,” he claimed.

“And so our Florida policies must be based on the best interests of Florida citizens, not the musings of bright-eyed corporations,” he added.

DeSantis’ comments about Disney’s relationship with the Chinese Communist Party have been a frequent criticism of the entertainment giant over the past week. Disney was one of several studios to suspend film releases in Russia over the country’s invasion of Ukraine, but has not taken similar steps in China for the treatment of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang province, who face human rights abuses.

Two years ago, Disney thanked the Xinjiang government authorities in the credits for its live-action adaptation of “Mulan,” which was filmed in part in the province. Disney CEO Bob Chapek Apologizes for ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Shut-Up: ‘I Failed You’


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