Protests and calls for a boycott of companies that support anti-gay Florida lawmakers continue to grow following the revelation that Disney donated to every single sponsor and co-sponsor of Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which seeks to curb discussions of LGBTQ topics in schools, and which was recently passed in the House and is expected to pass in the Senate and be signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis.
In response, Disney released a statement Thursday.
Despite branding itself as caring about inclusion, and its penchant for selling Pride merch every year, the conglomerate apparently so far has not pledged to resist making contributions to politicians who back the bill.
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“The biggest 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,” the company said in a statement.
The elephant, or should we say giant mouse, in the room is what it doesn’t say: That it will stop supporting the candidacies of politicians who are committed not to equality and inclusion, but rather anti-LGBTQ legislation.
NEW: Disney responds to protests and calls for action surrounding Florida's "Don't Say Gay" Bill, saying in part, "The biggest impact we can have in creating a more inclusive world is through the inspiring content we produce."
— Good Morning America (@GMA) March 4, 2022
“The business lobby seems more focused on securing tax breaks…than living up to their so-called corporate values of inclusivity,” Orlando Democrat State Rep. Anna Eskamani told the Orlando Sentinel.
While former Disney CEO Bob Iger has come out in opposition of the bill, current CEO Bob Chapek has remained silent, and, according to The Hollywood Reporter, he is “staunchly opposed to bringing Disney into issues he deems irrelevant to the company and its businesses,” while fearing the company could be labeled as too liberal otherwise.
Chapek’s most recent personal political donations were reportedly made in 2017, when he and his wife, Cynthia, each donated $500 to then-House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who has his own history of anti-LGBTQ votes. That same year, Chapek also donated $500 to a McCarthy-affiliated PAC.
I'm with the President on this! If passed, this bill will put vulnerable, young LGBTQ people in jeopardy. https://t.co/fJZBzre4yM
— Robert Iger (@RobertIger) February 25, 2022
Instead of taking a more public stance, Disney’s chief diversity officer, Latondra Newton, sent out an internal memo to Disney employees about the “deeply troubling and heartbreaking” developments with the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, and adding Chapek wanted “to meet with leaders in our company’s LGBTQ+ community to discuss how Disney can best support these important and valued employees and cast members.”
The company will host a “Reimagine Tomorrow” conversation on the 22nd to discuss “issues of concern to our LGBTQ+ colleagues.” This will be followed, on April 13, by a “Reimagine Tomorrow Global Summit,” billed as “the first gathering of our employees worldwide to discuss our progress on and plans for improving diversity, equity, and inclusion at Disney.”
Disney has only recently dipped its toe into increasing on-screen LGBTQ representation, with a barely-there gay(ish) moment between LeFou and Gaston in the 2017 live-action adaption of “Beauty and the Beast,” which Josh Gad, who played LeFou, has said didn’t go far enough in his opinion.
“My regret in what happened is that it became ‘Disney’s first explicitly gay moment’ and it was never intended to be that. It was never intended to be a moment that should laud ourselves for, because frankly, I don’t think we did justice to what a real gay character in a Disney film should be,” he told The Independent last month.
“If we’re going to pat ourselves on the back, then damn it we should have gone further with that. We didn’t go far enough to warrant accolades. We didn’t go far enough to say, ‘Look how brave we are,'” he added.
Abigail Disney, a filmmaker and granddaughter of Roy O. Disney, who co-founded The Walt Disney Company with her granduncle Walt Disney, has also criticized the company, chastising the decision to donate to the sponsors and co-sponsors of Florida’s anti-LGBTQ legislation.
“I could not be more unhappy with their political activities, both in terms of whom they fund and how they lobby. I would strongly support a law to require all corporations to reveal ALL of their funding and lobbying moves,” she tweeted, in response to a question about why Disney made those donations.