Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ new book — a possible prelude to a 2024 presidential run — includes a chapter highlighting his efforts last year to pass a parental rights bill, dubbed the “don’t say gay” law by detractors, amid opposition from The Walt Disney Co.
Fox News Digital, which obtained the chapter, reported DeSantis’ account. The governor wrote that as controversy swirled around the proposed legislation, Bob Chapek, then the CEO of Disney, called him and talked about the pressure he was getting to speak out against the legislation.
“As the controversy over the Parental Rights in Education bill was coming to a head, Chapek called me. He did not want Disney to get involved, but he was getting a lot of pressure to weigh in against the bill,” DeSantis wrote.
According to the book, Chapek told the governor, “We get pressured all the time. But this time is different. I haven’t seen anything like this before.”
As the bill was making its way through the state legislature last March, many Disney employees were upset that the company was not speaking out against it. Chapek eventually reversed himself and did, and disclosed that he had talked to DeSantis. Chapek told shareholders that he called “to express our disappointment and concern that if the legislation becomes law, it could be used to unfairly target gay, lesbian, non-binary and transgender kids and families.”
DeSantis said that he warned Chapek in the call that if the company got involved, “People like me will say, ‘Gee, how come Disney has never said anything about China, where they make a fortune?’” He said that he told Chapek that while the company would face “48 hours of outrage” when the bill passed and then when he signed it, the furor would dissipate.
After DeSantis signed the bill, Disney then sent out a statement in which it said that “our goal as a company is for this law to be repealed by the legislature or struck down in the courts, and we remain committed to supporting the national and state organizations working to achieve that.”
In his book, DeSantis said that Chapek “caved” to the “leftist media” and activist pressure, and accused Disney of escalating the situation by vowing to help fight it in the courts. That is when DeSantis championed legislation to dissolve a special district that has allowed Disney to self-govern land use and other infrastructure decisions at its Florida theme parks. On Monday, DeSantis signed a bill that retains the district, but puts it under state control, with the governor getting the power to appoint the members to its board.
Supporters of the parental rights bill have complained that the text does not mention the word “gay.” The law does refer to sexual orientation, and opponents say that it is an effort to target the LGBTQ community as a way to boost DeSantis’ national profile. The law says that “classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.”
In the aftermath of the controversy, Geoff Morrell, the company’s chief corporate affairs officer, exited. The board of the company extended Chapek’s contract in June, but then replaced him with former CEO Bob Iger in November.