Disney CEO Bob Iger has lashed out at Florida’s Republican governor in an ongoing public battle between the entertainment company and the state.
On Monday, Mr Iger said that Governor Ron DeSantis’s recent actions have been “anti-business” and “anti-Florida”.
State lawmakers targeted Disney after it criticised a Florida law curtailing gender and sexuality education.
Mr DeSantis has pushed for more state control over Disney’s Orlando theme parks in the dispute.
During a Monday meeting with Disney shareholders, Mr Iger said “a company has a right to freedom of speech just like individuals do”, according to US media.
He said that Mr DeSantis “got very angry about the position Disney took”, referring to the company’s objection to the state’s Parental Rights in Education Act, dubbed by critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
The measure bans school instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity for pupils aged nine and under.
In his remarks, Mr Iger also acknowledged a fight over a last-minute contract signed before Florida forced Disney to hand over uniquely held powers to state officials.
“It seems like he’s decided to retaliate against us, including the naming of a new board to oversee the property and the business, in effect to seek to punish a company for its exercise of a constitutional right,” Mr Iger said.
“That just seems really wrong to me.”
Mr Iger, who was leading his first investor’s meeting since returning as Disney CEO in November 2022, added: “Any action that thwarts those efforts simply to retaliate for a position the company took sounds not just anti-business, but it sounds anti-Florida.”
“And I’ll just leave it at that.”
For more than 50 years, the Walt Disney World territory operated within Florida’s Reedy Creek Improvement District and essentially acted as a self-governing area, with control of utilities and a fire department.
In February, Mr DeSantis signed a bill that subjects Disney to additional layers of external oversight through a five-member board, now appointed by the state. But last week, the new board said it had been neutered by the last-minute contract.
That contract gives Disney near total control over development in the district in perpetuity or until “21 years after the death of the last survivor of the descendants of King Charles III, king of England”.
Mr DeSantis and his allies called the move an attempt to defy the will of Floridians and state lawmakers. The governor has ordered an investigation into the outgoing board.
The battle over cultural issues between Mr DeSantis and Disney has helped elevate the governor’s profile as a potential 2024 Republican presidential frontrunner. He is widely expected to announce his candidacy in the coming months.
On Monday, Mr DeSantis signed a law allowing residents to carry a concealed firearm without a permit or training.
The law is due to take effect on 1 July, and will make Florida the 26th US state to allow permitless carry.
Source : BBC