Disney ‘suspends’ political donations in Florida, CEO apologizes

Photo: Photo Illustration by Thiago Prudencio/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Disney says: “Hi Gay.In a March 11 memo, Disney CEO Bob Chapek apologized to Disney employees for the company’s response to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill and claimed that the company would suspend political donations in the state. “Starting now, we are increasing our support for advocacy groups to fight similar legislation in other states,” Chapek said. written in a company-wide memo seen by The Hollywood Reporter. “We are working hard to create a new framework for our political giving that will ensure our advocacy better reflects our values. And today, we are suspending all political donations in the State of Florida pending that review. Despite advocating the company’s financial support for the politicians behind the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill – an attempt to stifle classroom discussions about gender and sexuality – Chapek was adamant that that he was an “ally”. “I missed the mark in this case, but I’m an ally you can count on – and I’ll be an outspoken champion for the protections, visibility and opportunities you deserve,” he said. The apology comes days after Disney declined to speak out against the bill. Since then, Disney fans and public figures have taken to the internet to inspire others to #BoycottDisney.

In a weird twist of timing, Wednesday was the Walt Disney Company’s annual shareholders meeting, and Chapek had to address the Dumbo in the room: On Monday, he had sent an internal email to employees saying that the company would not officially denounce “Don’t Say Gay”, whose legislative supporters were funded in part with Disney money. But according to New York Time journalist Brooks Barnes, Chapek told investors at the meeting that the company had “opposed the bill from the start.” Barnes tweeted that Chapek said he called Florida Governor Ron DeSantis that morning “to express our disappointment and concern that if the legislation becomes law it could be used to unfairly target children and gay, lesbian, non-binary and transgender families,” adding that Chapek said, “The Governor has heard our concerns and has agreed to meet with me and the LGBTQ+ members of our senior team in Florida to discuss ways to address this. answer.”

Nowhere in that statement did Chapek say the company was going to ask DeSantis to kill the bill, or say that Disney would stop donating to the politicians who put it into effect. Barnes added that Chapek said Disney would donate $5 million to the human rights campaign. To put this into perspective, the most recent data available on OpenSecrets regarding political contributions and lobbying by Disney affiliates dates to 2020, and that year its biggest recipient was America First Action, a Trump re-election super-PAC. He gave $10.5 million. Businesses will remain businesses. However, the HRC said it would not accept any money from Disney, “until we see them build on their public commitment and work with LGBTQ+ advocates to ensure that dangerous proposals, like the one from Florida. Don’t say gay or trans bill, don’t become dangerous laws, and if they do, work to get them off the books,” Acting President Joni Madison said. in a report.

The Animation Guild and its QueerTAG committee have also issued a statement On Wednesday, condemning Disney’s “current statements regarding the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill in Florida,” calling the company’s funding of homophobic and transphobic legislation and Chapek’s defense of its conservative lobbying “a capital misstep by Disney management that defies all logic and corporate ethics.The guild, which represents animators, writers and technicians at Disney and other studios, said: “It is time for companies that continually seek to engage the LGBTQ+ community to prove their intentions are not dishonest by backing up their words with definitive actions.”

These sentiments found an echo in a statement made by “Pixar’s LGBTQIA+ employees and their allies”. In response to the call from Chapek shareholders, Pixar employees not only sided with those asking Disney to withdraw their funds, they claimed that the company honchos demanded that they cut “almost every moment of openly gay affection…never mind when there are protests from both creative teams and executive management at Pixar. Apparently, you can’t say gay in any world Ahead takes place in one or the other.

LGBTQ+ Disney employees previously sent a letter to Chapek and other leaders on Feb. 28, after the bill passed the Florida House of Representatives but before it passed the state Senate on Feb. 8 March. The letter, which Variety acquired March 10, implored Disney management to speak out against harmful Republican legislation, including the “Don’t Say Gay” bill and Texas Governor Greg Abbott attempts to criminalize parents of trans children. “Legislation in this way specifically targets the most vulnerable members of our community, and data proves that a lack of support leads to increased suicide rates among young LGBTQIA+ people, a group that is already three times more likely to attempt to commit suicide than non-LGBTQIA+ people. youth,” reads the letter, which asks Disney to “stand with our community” and publicly condemn the anti-LGBTQ+ policy.

Disney CEO Bob Chapek responded a week later, in this March 7 email to employees defend the company’s position On the bill. “As we’ve seen time and time again, corporate pronouncements do very little to change results or minds,” Chapek wrote. He went on to cite Disney products on characters with marginalized identities, a few of which involve gay characters, including Encanto, Black Panther, modern familyand Love, Victor. “These stories and all of our various stories are our corporate statements – and they are more powerful than any tweet or lobbying effort,” Chapek wrote. Yeah, bigots, watch a movie! The Florida Senate passed the bill the next day. Chapek added that Disney will “have a deeper conversation” about the bill and the company’s position at its Reimagine Tomorrow summit on March 22 – after the bill becomes law.

As the company behind The beauty and the BeastIn the ‘exclusively gay moment’ sees it, money isn’t necessarily the most important tool. “The greatest impact we can have in creating a more inclusive world is through the inspiring content we produce, the welcoming culture we create here, and the diverse community organizations we support, including those representing the LGBTQ+ community. “Disney said in a March 3 statement. statement through Hello America.

At the end of February, the Orlando Sentinel reported that Disney funded all the politicians who sponsored or co-sponsored the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which would restrict what schools can teach about sexual orientation and gender identity. The bill states that discussions of these topics “cannot take place in Kindergarten through Grade 3” or, more loosely, “in a manner that is not appropriate for the age or development of the students. in accordance with state standards. Parents could also sue schools and teachers for having such conversations. Officially known as House Bill 1557, the legislation was passed by the Florida House of Representatives on February 24. Now enacted by the Republican state Senate, it will go into effect on July 1.

This post has been updated throughout.