Florida Gov. Slams Disney as 'Woke,' Tied to China, in Wake of 'Don't Say Gay' Bill Criticism

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Friday March 11, 2022

Disney CEO Bob Chapek told shareholders this week he had phoned Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and gotten guarantees about the "Don't Say Gay" bill. But DeSantis seems to have a different take.

According to UK newspaper The Independent, DeSantis declared on March 10 that Florida lawmakers were "not going to allow them to inject transgenderism into kindergarten," and went on to add: "When you have companies that have made a fortune off being family friendly and catering to families and young kids, they should understand that parents of young kids do not want this injected into their kids' kindergarten classroom. They do not want their first graders to go and be told that they can choose an opposite gender."

DeSantis accused Disney of being "woke," political news outlet The Hill reported.

The Independent relayed that DeSantis insinuated that Disney was "lining their pockets with their relationship from the communist party of China," echoing criticisms aimed at the giant entertainment company over its Shanghai resort and having filmed on location in China.

As previously reported at EDGE, Chapek told shareholders at a March 9 quarterly meeting that DeSantis had "committed to me that he wanted to make sure that this law [the so-called "Don't Say Gay" bill] could not be weaponized in any way by individuals in the state or groups in the state to unduly harm or target gay, lesbian, nonbinary or transgender kids and families."

Chapek also said that DeSantis "heard our concerns and agreed to meet with me and LGBTQ+ members of our senior team in Florida to discuss ways to address them."

"For weeks, Disney employees and LGBT+ advocates have demanded that the company — which carries massive political weight in Florida — leverage its influence to publicly lobby against the legislation, which opponents warn will endanger the lives of LGBT+ young people and have a chilling effect on LGBT+ schoolchildren and their families as well as classroom instruction and lessons on LGBT+ people and issues," The Independent said.

The bill encourages parents to sue teachers for such classroom discussion. An earlier version of the bill included an amendment requiring schools to report LGBTQ+ children to their parents, but that amendment was removed after an outcry.

Florida state lawmakers approved the bill on March 8, and DeSantis has signaled strong support for the measure. The Hill quoted him as declaring that "the chance that I am going to back down from my commitment to students and back down from my commitment to parents rights simply because of fraudulent media narratives or pressure from woke corporations... are zero."

Both racial and LGBTQ+ topics in the classroom, as well as in the workplace, are in the crosshairs of a second measure promoted by GOP Florida lawmakers, a measure its supporters call the "Stop WOKE Act," which the state Senate approved on March 10. The bill's official name is the "Stop Wrongs Against Our Kids and Employees Act."

Speaking in support of the "Stop WOKE Act," DeSantis accused companies of creating a "hostile work environment" by "forc[ing] their employees to endure [Critical Race Theory]-inspired 'training' and indoctrination," CBS News said.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.