A Whole New World for Disney after Florida Retaliates
If Disney didn’t know conservatives meant business, they do now. Four weeks into this national drama between Florida and CEO Bob Chapek, state leaders aren’t just speaking out — they’re hitting back. After years of sitting down and taking it when corporate bullies stick their noses in social issues, Governor Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) is finally making an example out of a company that took their war against parents too far. And to most Americans, who are sick of having their values mocked and shamed by Big Business, it’s about time.
“Disney is a guest in Florida,” state Rep. Randy Fine (R-Fla.) tweeted. “Today, we remind them.” Led by DeSantis, Republicans are making good on their threats to pull the plug on Disney’s sweetheart deal with the state. The state Senate acted first, dropping the hammer on the company’s massive 27,000-acre property which — until now — has operated like its little country, free from a lot of the government oversight that bogs down other businesses. Disney’s six theme and water parks (along with their adjacent hotels, stores, and eateries) have enjoyed more than 50 years of perks from Florida’s government — escaping taxes and fees, building and zoning regulations, even safety codes.
“Maybe that was a good idea in 1967,” Fine said on “Washington Watch,” but not anymore. Aside from Disney’s over-the-top extremism, he argues, it’s time to level the playing field and treat every business the same. “Universal Studios has three [theme parks],” Fine points out, “but they don’t get to create their own Jurassic Park Improvement District and govern themselves. They have to follow the laws of the city and the county where they exist. SeaWorld has to do the same. Busch Gardens has to do the same. Lego Land has to do the same. No other company, theme park or otherwise, gets to self-govern. It’s almost like Disney has seceded from the state, and then they get to run their own little empire.”
That all ends now, conservatives vowed. By a 23-16 vote, state senators voted to strip Disney of its special status Wednesday — sending the political hot potato to the House of Representatives, where this morning, screaming Democrats tried to shut down the chamber.
But in the end, they couldn’t drown out the GOP, who was determined to make Chapek’s company pay the price for trying to force their West Coast extremism on Disney’s host state. The House didn’t waste time following suit, voting 68-38 to end the company’s 55-year run at self-government. “Look, in California, it might be okay to run up on stage and deck someone because you don’t like what they have to say, but in Florida we’re a little bit more civilized,” Fine insisted. “And we don’t want California values in our state. Frankly, we think America would be a little bit better served if we were more like Florida and a little bit less like California.”
For once, a state is hitting Big Business where it hurts for its LGBT extremism — not just crossing their fingers and hoping grassroots shoppers make a dent in the bottom line. That’s what had to happen, NRO’s Ryan Ellis argues, to send a real message.
“At some point, conservatives were going to have to make an example of one of these companies, not just grumble about them after they get away with it. ... Going after Disney is the victim’s punch to the nose to correct the bully: Stop attacking us, or we will defend ourselves. ... And if this bloody nose is a lesson to boardrooms across America? America will be all the better for it. We need to take political maximalism out of every aspect of our lives. We shouldn’t have to swear an oath to wokeness to watch Snow White or drink a soda. As Michael Jordan famously said, ‘Republicans buy sneakers, too.’”
When DeSantis signs the bill and completes the GOP’s checkmate, the Reedy Creek Improvement District (Disney’s special municipal body) will return to the local governments for oversight. “They would be subject to county and city regulation, just like every other company in the state of Florida,” Fine explains. The rumors that a decision like this would transfer a massive chunk of debt to local districts are false. “From the perspective of taxpayers, there would be no difference. That’s just a scare tactic whipped up by the Left to avoid doing this.”
Meanwhile, the company can hardly afford any more financial hits. In an announcement that can only be called bad timing, Disney is officially the worst performing stock on the Dow Jones Industrial Average for the past year — dropping 31 percent in the last 12 months. And while the freefall can’t be blamed on this latest flap, it certainly doesn’t help Chapek’s cause. Investors who were already wary of poor returns have to be even more leery now that Disney is parents’ public enemy number one.
For others watching this heavyweight battle unfold, it’s a tragic commentary on the direction our country is moving. The neutral territory is rapidly disappearing in America, Florida Family Policy Council President John Stemberger lamented on “Washington Watch.” The spaces where we all used to come together and find enjoyment in a unified way are gradually being destroyed by the Left. Sports, entertainment, pride in our military, the tradition of the Boy and Girl Scouts -- they’ve all become politicized, instead of the respite from the world’s debates that they used to be. “It’s a sad development. But Disney needs to feel the pain as a result of their bad actions here,” he agreed.
That’s all but inevitable now, thanks to the governor’s steely spine. “There’s policy disputes, and that’s fine,” he has said, “but when you’re trying to impose a woke ideology on our state, we view that as a significant threat.” A threat, DeSantis agreed, that should at least be neutralized for now. “Disney and other woke corporations won’t get away with peddling their unchecked pressure campaigns any longer.” Other CEOs: take note.
Tony Perkins is president of Family Research Council and executive editor of The Washington Stand.