Former CEO Bob Chapek privately complained to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis over the pressure he was facing to weigh in against Florida’s Parental Rights Education bill, known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, according to DeSantis’ new memoir.
According to Fox News, in his book, “The Courage to be Free: Florida’s Blueprint for American Revival,” which will be released Tuesday, DeSantis recounts a private conversation he had last year with Chapek, who had stayed silent on the bill.
“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 writes.
“We get pressured all the time,” Chapek told DeSantis, according to the governor’s book. “But this time is different. I haven’t seen anything like this before.”
Disney did not return requests for comment.
At first, Chapek tried to remain on the sidelines, but LGBTQ employees and advocates pressured the exec to take a stand last March, asserting that the bill was a human rights issue. The bill bars teachers from discussing LGBTQ topics like sexual orientation or gender identity with students until after third grade.
Amid the melee DeSantis issued a warning over Disney getting involved in the legislation. “People like me will say, ‘Gee, how come Disney has never said anything about China, where they make a fortune?’” DeSantis told Chapek, according to the book.
DeSantis wrote that Chapek and Disney “ultimately caved to leftist media and activist pressure and pressed the false narrative against the bill.”
“Behind the scenes, I was not, as a father of children ages five, four, and two, comfortable with the continuation of Disney’s special arrangement,” DeSantis wrote in his memoir.
“While the Walt Disney Company and its executives had a right to indulge in woke activism, Florida did not have to place the company on a pedestal while they do so —especially when the company’s activism impacted the rights of parents and the well-being of children,” DeSantis added.
Chapek had apologized multiple times to the LGBTQ community and vowed to suspend all political donations in Florida, as a result.
“It is clear that this is not just an issue about a bill in Florida, but instead yet another challenge to basic human rights,” Chapek said at the time. “You needed me to be a stronger ally in the fight for equal rights and I let you down. I am sorry.”
DeSantis signed into law last March 28, which prompted Disney to publicly rip the new law and stand with Disney’s LGBTQ employees and advocates in Florida.
DeSantis retaliated by signaled publicly that he would be willing to reevaluate Disney’s special tax district, called Reedy Creek, and favorable corporate agreements due to their insistence on “woke” political activism.
Chapek was replaced with longtime CEO Bob Iger in late 2022. Iger told Disney staffers in November that he didn’t like that the Mouse House was “embroiled in controversy” and that he would “work to quiet things down.”
But DeSantis pushed on, signing a law to strip Disney World of its Reedy Creek control on Monday.
In his book, the Florida governor says the Disney saga’s lesson is that in an environment of “woke capital” where large companies employ their influence to advance left-wing political agendas, “old-guard corporate Republicanism is not up to the task at hand.”
DeSantis, a rumored 2024 presidential hopeful, has not yet announced if he will run.
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