Florida governor Ron DeSantis retaliates against one of his state’s major employers.
Since his election in 2018, Florida governor Ron DeSantis has enjoyed strong approval ratings, becoming a favorite potential presidential candidate among Republicans. His feud with Disney, however, might darken his star among independents and those outside his home state. It might also shape corporate cultures outside the magic world of Disney.
The many twists and turns in the spat between DeSantis and the House of Mouse have often befuddled public opinion. Everything started in February, when Florida’s lawmakers approved House Bill 1557. Dubbed by critics the “Don’t Say ‘Gay’” bill, it prevents schoolteachers from discussing topics related to sexual orientation or gender identity between kindergarten and third grade (roughly between the age of five and nine), and for older students when deemed not “age appropriate” or “developmentally appropriate.”
Disney employees rose in protest, prompting the CEO, Bob Chapek, to apologize for not having opposed the legislation. DeSantis, who also spearheaded a measure called the “Stop Woke Act” that targets diversity and equity training in schools and companies like Disney, retaliated by pushing forward a bill—passed in April—to strip the company of its special tax status in the Orlando area.
Yet DeSantis, as late-night show host Trevor Noah quipped, might have messed with the wrong mouse. In a poll by Reuters and Ipsos, 62% of Americans said they were less likely to support a political candidate who punishes a business over its stance on social issues. A different survey commissioned by NBC News showed that Disney remains more popular than DeSantis by a 5% margin.
Others, however, argue that the governor has already won the battle, which has little to do with Disney per se. While the entertainment juggernaut is all but sure to survive long after we are all gone, more vulnerable companies will probably think twice before speaking out on hot-button cultural issues that are likely to alienate part of their customer base.