Disney boss Bob Iger said he doesn’t want to “be drawn into any culture wars” as Disney continues to weather a battle with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis during an interview at Sun Valley’s “summer camp for billionaires”.
In a Thursday sit-down with CNBC, Iger said of last month’s neo-Nazi protests outside of Walt Disney World’s Orlando theme park: “That was horrifying. I don’t really want to engage in the specifics except to say that it’s not our goal to be involved in a culture war.”
Iger echoed the sentiment when questioned on the House of Mouse’s ongoing legal dispute with Florida Gov. DeSantis, who has entered the 2024 presidential race.
“The last thing I want is for the company to be drawn into any culture wars,” he told CNBC of Disney’s First Amendment case against DeSantis that was filed in April, which has since escalated into a row of warring lawsuits.
“I’m not sure that was handled very well,” Iger told CNBC of Disney’s response to DeSantis’ hotly-debated legislation that has been branded by critics as “Don’t Say Gay,” which was signed into law in March of 2022.
While admitting to CNBC interviewer David Faber that Disney didn’t respond well, Iger added that it was “in its [Disney’s] right to speak up.”
Disney has been feuding with DeSantis since last year, though, when the entertainment company publicly condemned the governor’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
The legislation prohibits public school teachers from instructing students on sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through third grade.
The company’s left-leaning workers then staged a walkout to protest management’s initial reluctance to denounce the measure while its conservative employees urged higher-ups to stay neutral on hot-button political issues.
Faber then asked Iger for a response to DeSantis’ brash statement that Disney has been put “on a pedestal” during a town hall in New Hampshire last month.
“In the past it has been like this all-American company. But they’ve really embraced the idea of getting sexualized content in the programming from the young kids. And that is just a line that I am not willing to cross,” DeSantis said.
Iger called the statement “preposterous and inaccurate” during the CNBC interview.
Iger avoided talking more politics, saying that Disney is “there to manufacture fun.”
Following Iger’s statement, Walt Disney Co.’s share price was down nearly 1% as of Thursday’s opening bell.
The interview was aired a day after it was revealed that Walt Disney’s board extended the chief executive’s contract through the end of 2026.
The board agreed to extend Iger’s contract by two years as it ensures “continuity of leadership during the company’s ongoing transformation,” Disney said in a statement.
Iger returned to Disney as CEO in November 2022, less than a year after he retired, saying he had agreed to serve as CEO for two more years.
CNBC’s Faber asked Iger why he came out of retirement since his “window is closing on life” at age 72.
“I did like retirement. I highly recommend it,” Iger responded, noting his “real passion for the company.”
While Iger didn’t mention his predecessor, it was believed that he came out of retirement when Bob Chapek — who took over as Disney CEO after Iger’s 15-year reign in the role — disappointed investors with poor earnings.