‘I’ve let you down’: Disney CEO suspends political donations amid backlash to ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill

ORLANDO, Florida. – Disney CEO Bob Chapek said in an apology email to employees on Friday that he “missed the mark” in his response to the outcry HB 1557Florida’s controversial legislation dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, adding that the company would suspend political donations in the state.

Chapek’s comments landed in cast members’ inboxes days after the bill landed on Governor Ron DeSantis’ desk, sent there by Florida lawmakers after finding the State House and Senate approval.

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“Thank you to everyone who reached out to me to share their pain, frustration, and sadness over the company’s response to Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill. Talking to you , reading your messages and meeting you have helped me better understand how painful our silence was,” Chapek said in the statement. “It is clear that this is not just an issue about a project law in Florida, but more of another challenge to basic human rights. You needed me to be a stronger ally in the fight for equal rights and I let you down. I’m sorry.”

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Proponents of the bill point to its Tongue as neutral and parent-friendly legislation, while its opponents believe that the same text serves to invalidate and marginalize LGBTQ+ students and their identities. In a fundraising email Thursday, DeSantis said the bill “reasonably prohibits K-3 students from being indoctrinated with transgender and R-rated lessons on sexuality.”

At a rally in Boca Raton on Thursday, DeSantis criticized Chapek’s open disappointment with the bill, accusing Disney of succumbing to “phony hysteria” and calling the company “woke.”

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“If this is the hill they are going to die on, then how can they explain lining their pockets with their relationship with the Chinese Communist Party?” said DeSantis.

Between May 18, 2019 and March 30, 2021, records show Disney donated $106,809.38 to Friends of Ron DeSantis, the governor’s Political Action Committee, according to the Florida Division of Elections.

According to Chapek’s message on Friday, in which he said Disney would immediately suspend political donations in Florida, the figure will remain that way for now.

The Disney companies donated $2,109,361.87 last year for the 2022 election cycle alone, according to Florida’s Division of Elections, with hundreds of thousands of dollars going to groups affiliated with the Republican Party compared to groups affiliated with the Democratic Party.

At a shareholder meeting on Wednesday, Chapek said Disney opposed the bill “from the get-go,” but didn’t initially take a public stance on it as the company tried to work “in the backstage” to change DeSantis’ mind.

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On Friday, Chapek pledged to increase Disney’s support for LGBTQ+ advocacy groups, as he said he strives to be a better ally to the community, and promised more updates on progress. of the company to this effect “in the coming weeks”.

“I truly believe that we are an infinitely better and stronger company because of our LGBTQ+ community,” Chapek said. “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.”

Many LGBTIQ+ organizations are saying yes, it’s a step in the right direction with Disney making its latest pledge to pause its political donations in Florida, but News 6’s political analyst says it’s the word ” pause” which makes him want to wait and see what the big mouse is doing.

“What’s going to be interesting here is whether Disney sticks with it or just allows the anger to die down,” said analyst Jim Clark, who said that type of statement was too familiar.

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“After Jan. 6 at the United States Capitol, when dozens of companies announced they were suspending political contributions to candidates, but within months the pause was over,” Clark said.

Christina Pushaw, a spokeswoman for DeSantis, tweeted a response to the letter, saying Disney shouldn’t have said anything about the bill.

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation held two protests in Florida and California against the bill and called on the Big Mouse to speak out.

Now, with Disney’s latest statement, Michael Kahane of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation said, “I am pleased with the stance Disney has taken, although I am disappointed with the process it took to get this far.”

Clark says DeSantis favors the bill which he will likely sign. However, he says the state will likely see court battles challenging the constitutionality of this bill.

Read Chapek’s full statement below:

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