Disney hits back against DeSantis

Magic Kingdom is letting its money do all the talking

Entranceway to Walt Disney World.
(Image credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

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You can now put a price tag on Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' (R) feud with Disney, said Nicole Narea in Vox. Already embroiled in a lawsuit over DeSantis' efforts to end its special self-operating status, Disney said last week it is "scrapping plans for a $1 billion development" in Orlando that would have relocated thousands of white-collar workers to the Sunshine State. Disney parks chief Josh D'Amaro cited "changing business conditions" for the about-face, which also included closing the Star Wars hotel — known for rates starting at $6,000 for a family of four — after just two years. But in a call with investors last week, Disney CEO Bob Iger was more direct about DeSantis' role: "Does the state want us to invest more, employ more people, and pay more taxes, or no?" The spat has become "an embarrassment for DeSantis on a national stage" just as the governor, who announced his run this week, officially enters the presidential race.

Disney didn't spike the Orlando investment "in order to spite DeSantis," said Zachary Faria in the Washington Examiner. That's an excuse created by a CEO who has a vested interest in finding someone to blame. "This was Disney, a company going through a rough financial patch, killing a project that had already been delayed and was unpopular with the new CEO and the workers that would be affected." Like much of Hollywood, Iger is a proud member of "Team Biden," said Charles Gasparino in the New York Post. He knows Biden's best chance to win re-election isn't against DeSantis, but against Donald Trump. Iger is spinning "what everyone on Wall Street and inside Disney knows is a simple cost-cutting move into a noble act" to stick a knife into DeSantis' campaign.

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Floridians pay the price for this man's ego, said the Miami Herald in an editorial. "We've lost jobs and investment, and we could lose even more." Disney "still plans $17 billion in construction at Disney World in the next decade, with a potential 13,000 jobs," and it sounds like that's in jeopardy, too. All because of a "nakedly ambitious, vindictive governor who can't tolerate dissent." The right has long viewed Disney's "narrative magic" as a threat, said Jodi Eichler-Levine at CNN. It's a "potent force that now promotes a vision of diversity and inclusion that regressive groups are right to fear." DeSantis didn't invent the Christian-led crusade against "woke Disney," but this time, "the anti-Disney folks are deploying the power of the state."

Conservatives want politicians to stand up to liberals trying to push their agendas on corporations, but DeSantis "made a mess of things," said Megan McArdle in The Washington Post. The antagonism started after progressive employees pressed the company to criticize Florida's Parental Rights in Education Act — the "Don't Say Gay" law. In the past, Republican politicians might have "said things for the cameras, and then backstage come to a quiet understanding." But DeSantis has kept turning the screws, "most recently suggesting the state might jack up hotel taxes, add tolls to the roads, or even build a prison" next to Disney World. When this started, "Disney clearly had no appetite for a brawl," but DeSantis has left it no choice but to fight.

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