GOP to Disney: You’ve Lost a Friend in Me
It’s been an unusually quiet week for corporate America after one of the biggest cultural bombshells of the modern age. The news that the Supreme Court might be on the verge of overturning Roe v. Wade hasn’t unleashed an army of woke CEOs on the country like most reporters expected. On the contrary, most of the country’s brands seem surprisingly mum on an abortion issue that would have sent them into the stratosphere as recently as February. What changed? Experts say one thing: Disney.
The company’s spat with Florida Republicans left a mark, the Wall Street Journal says. That feud, which robbed Disney of special privileges that it’s enjoyed for decades, “has CEOs on alert.” After years of corporate America having their way with conservatives — bashing the GOP’s social policy on one hand and demanding economic favors on the other — the tables have turned. When Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) flexed his political muscle against Disney CEO Bob Chapek for overstepping his bounds on the Parents Rights Act, an unmistakable message was sent: cross us on core values and you’ll pay.
Now, in the messy aftermath of that flap, more CEOs are awake to the risks of taking sides on touchy cultural issues than ever. “More than a dozen brands that have previously taken positions on other issues either declined to comment on the [Supreme Court’s] draft opinion [on abortion] or didn’t respond to requests for comment,” the Journal reports. Some of that has to do with the ruling not being final, but there’s plenty of anxiety about alienating customers too.
After the Supreme Court leak, PR firm Zeno was quick to let clients know that abortion is a “particularly divisive issue,” and “subjects that divide the country can sometimes be no-win situations for companies…”
That’s a major shift from just a few months ago, when woke companies were jumping into the fray on everything from gender identity and school curriculum to critical race theory. Now, gun-shy from the drama that played out between Orlando and Tallahassee, more businesses are thinking twice about weighing in on Roe.
Of course, there will always be companies too woke to care about customer relations — like Amazon, Apple, Levi Strauss, Uber, Lyft, Citigroup, and Ben & Jerry’s— who’ve all stepped out on a limb to defend their radical abortion policies. Some, like Levi, even go so far as to call their defense of the killing “a business imperative.”
Disney, meanwhile, has bigger problems on its hands. After suffering a couple of black eyes at the hands of the Florida legislature, congressional Republicans have their own ideas about forcing Chapek into line. Almost two dozen conservatives wrote to the CEO last month, threatening not to renew Disney’s copyright on Mickey Mouse — which is up in 2024. Now, Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) is giving the effort some teeth, introducing a special Copyright Clause Restoration Act that would limit protections to 56 years. And since the law would apply retroactively, Disney could lose some of their most sacred copyrights immediately if the bill passed. “The age of Republican handouts to Big Business are over,” he declared.
On “Washington Watch” Wednesday, Hawley explained that Disney went to Congress several years ago to ask for another sweetheart deal — this time on copyrights — and got it. “I don’t know why Disney should get special deals from the federal government,” the Missouri senator said. “I don’t know why a company that now apologizes for America, that apologizes for its own work over the years and that attacks the values of this country, I don’t know why they should get these special handouts. So what my bill would do is end the special handouts. Disney should get treated like everybody else…”
Making matters worse, the legal fight against Florida’s law that stripped Disney of its self-governing district was just dismissed in court for “lack of standing.” That blow, combined with this new copyright snag, creates even more headaches for Chapek, who’s already paid a steep price for Disney’s wokeness. But as far as Hawley is concerned, “If you’re going to attack the values of most Americans, if you’re going to attack the American family, if you’re going to ship our jobs overseas and deny us work, why would we reward you for that? Why would they get special treatment? I’m against that. And I think it’s time that we made it really clear what we stand for.”
Suzanne Bowdey serves as editorial director and senior writer at The Washington Stand.