Disney's battle with Florida escalated this week when CEO Bob Iger asked what would happen if Disney wasn't around to pay over a billion dollars in taxes.
Governor Ron DeSantis has made his intentions clear in engaging in a culture war with Disney as he persistently challenges the company’s political influence. However, his efforts may face a setback, as Disney CEO Bob Iger firmly expressed the company’s desire to distance itself from the Florida governor’s political games during a recent earnings call. According to Newsweek, Iger posed a crucial question during the call, asking, “Does the state want us to invest more, employ more people, and pay more taxes, or not?”
The pivotal question arose when Iger highlighted Disney‘s substantial presence in Florida, employing more than 75,000 individuals and drawing in tens of millions of visitors to its parks. He emphasized that Disney holds the distinction of being the largest taxpayer in Central Florida, contributing a significant $1.1 billion in state and local taxes in the previous year alone. Furthermore, Iger underscored Disney’s future commitment to the state, revealing plans to invest a staggering $17 billion in Florida over the course of the next decade.
Iger’s inclination to emphasize the value of Disney in Florida stems from a prolonged feud with Governor Ron DeSantis, which originated from the introduction of the highly controversial “Don’t Say Gay” bill. This contentious legislation, passed last year, bans discussions surrounding homosexuality in public schools and has garnered significant criticism, with the Mouse House at the forefront of opposition. Renowned for its unwavering commitment to diversity and inclusivity, Disney has vocally expressed its strong disagreement with the bill, underscoring the potential harm it may inflict upon LGBTQ+ individuals and communities.
In response to Disney’s public stance against the bill, Governor DeSantis has launched a series of criticisms targeting the company, frequently labeling it as “woke.” Last month, the Florida governor took the feud a step further by proposing legislation that voids Disney contracts with potential developers. Faced with the threat of voiding past agreements, Disney responded with a firm stance against the proposed legislation, signaling a significant shift in their relationship with the governor.
In the same month, Disney responded by taking legal action and filing a lawsuit against Governor DeSantis, along with other government officials connected to his administration and the newly formed Central Florida Tourism Oversight District. The lawsuit asserts that DeSantis’ recent actions specifically aimed at Disney are not just illegal but also violate constitutional principles. This legal maneuver signifies Disney’s determination to challenge the governor’s actions and seek redress through the judicial system.
“I think the case that we filed last month made our position and the facts very clear,” said Iger during the recent earnings call. “This is about one thing and one thing only, and that is retaliating against us for taking a position about pending legislation,” he added, referencing the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. “And we believe that in us taking that position we are merely exercising our right to free speech.”
Iger’s remarks during the recent earnings call left no doubt that Disney will no longer tolerate retaliatory attacks from Governor Ron DeSantis. He emphasized unequivocally that Disney holds a substantial presence in the state of Florida, which greatly benefits the region. By asserting the company’s significance, Iger made a strong statement about Disney’s commitment to its contributions in Florida and its unwillingness to be undermined by political disputes.
Fortunately, the potential presidential candidacy of Ron DeSantis holds the possibility of resolving the ongoing feud with Disney. As a presidential candidate, DeSantis may adopt a more conciliatory approach, recognizing the significance of Disney as an influential and beloved institution in the state of Florida. A shift in his perspective and priorities could open doors for constructive dialogue, paving the way for a resolution to the conflicts between DeSantis and Disney.