Disney CEO Chapek Meets Florida Gov. DeSantis Amid ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Blame

Disney CEO Bob Chapek said he will meet with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to discuss the state’s controversial “Don’t Say Gay” law after Mouse House’s backlash over the it had been silent on the subject.

The CEO also said Disney will donate $5 million to organizations working to protect LGTBQ+ rights, including the Human Rights Campaign.

During Disney’s annual shareholder meeting on Wednesday, the CEO said that while Disney “has been against the law from the start,” its original covert approach to fighting it “didn’t work.”

“While we’ve been strong community supporters for decades, I know many are upset that we didn’t speak out against the law,” Chapek said. “Well, we opposed the bill from the start, but we chose not to take a public position because we felt we could work more effectively behind the scenes and work directly with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.”

Bob Chapek
Chapek said Disney has been fighting Florida’s controversial law behind the scenes.
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The CEO said that Disney “despite weeks of effort” was “ultimately unsuccessful” and challenged the bill that would ban Florida teachers from discussing LGBTQ issues like sexual orientation or gender identity with students until after third grade.

Chapek said he expressed concern to DeSantis Wednesday morning that if the law goes into effect, it “could be used to unfairly target LGBTQ children and families.”

The executive director said the governor has agreed to meet with Chapek and a group of senior LGBTQ+ Disney employees to “discuss ways” to address those concerns.

Crowds fill Main Street USA in front of Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom for the 50th Anniversary of Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.
Disney employees slammed Chapek this week for the company’s unwillingness to condemn the bill.
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When asked by a shareholder what Chapek hopes to get out of the meeting given DeSantis’ strong stance, he said he hopes to work with the governor to ensure the bill doesn’t become “weaponized” to LGBTQ children and youth – Reach out to families.

DeSantis said he was interested in meeting Chapek and his team to determine what “aspects of the bill” were of most concern.

Late last week, DeSantis defended the bill, saying it was not about discrimination but was designed to ensure that young students were not given “sex education.”

Ron DeSantis
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has defended the “Don’t Say Gay” law, saying it’s not about discrimination.
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“If you look at the bill and it says ‘No sex education for kids before K through three,’ how many parents want their kids to be transgender or have something introduced into the classroom?” DeSantis said, according to a report by CBS News.

Though Disney’s reluctance to pass the bill in recent days has sparked outrage from LGBT rights groups and Disney employees and fans alike, some have expressed concerns that the company shouldn’t be addressing such issues.

A special fireworks display explodes over the castle, which is illuminated with a light show featuring
Chapek said Disney will donate $5 million to organizations working to protect LGTBQ+ rights, including the Human Rights Campaign.
Getty Images

One disgruntled Disney shareholder slammed the company’s inclusion efforts, such as the LGBTQ pride marches at its theme parks and its decision to feature a transgender character in an upcoming Pixar flick, and questioned whether the company would be better served if it did would “slip” from politics and “return” back to the “magic and innocence” that served as the basis.

“I think all participants in today’s conference call can see how difficult it is to find the thread between the extreme polarization of political viewpoints that we have as shareholders,” Chapek said. “We want Disney to be a place where people can come together and put their differences aside. My goal is to ensure that continues to be the case, that Disney is a unifying force, not a divisive force.” Disney CEO Chapek Meets Florida Gov. DeSantis Amid ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Blame


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