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DeSantis clings to moral high ground in battle with 'woke' Disney

"The governor does not need to look at polling, in order to know that instruction on sexuality and gender ideology in kindergarten classrooms is wrong," said DeSantis spokeswoman Christina Pushaw

April 6, 2022 10:39am

Updated: April 7, 2022 2:34pm

As Democrats rally against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ new Parental Rights in Education law, the Sunshine State’s leadership is taking the moral high ground and claiming the debate is between what’s right and what’s wrong.

"The governor does not need to look at polling, in order to know that instruction on sexuality and gender ideology in kindergarten classrooms is wrong," DeSantis spokeswoman Christina Pushaw told the Washington Examiner. "Disney should refocus on its business and stop trying to wage culture wars against Floridians. The same goes for other woke corporations."

Ever since DeSantis announced House Bill 1557 last month, critics have dubbed the measure as the “Don’t Say Gay bill,” a move which conservatives have blasted as misleading and intellectually dishonest.

According to the bill’s text, the legislation would serve to “reinforce the fundamental right of parents to make decisions regarding the upbringing and control of their children” by prohibiting schools from enacting policies that prevent the disclosure to parents of “critical decisions affecting a student’s mental, emotional, or physical health or well-being.”

Furthermore, the bill prohibits “classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity” in kindergarten through third grade.

After the bill was signed on March 28, Disney -- Florida's largest private employer -- voiced opposition to the law and the company’s CEO Bob Chapek told attendees at the company’s annual meeting of shareholders that his team has been “opposed to the bill from the outset.”

"We were opposed to the bill from the outset, but we chose not to take a public position on it because we thought we could be more effective working behind-the-scenes, engaging directly with lawmakers—on both sides of the aisle," Chapek said at the meeting.

DeSantis was quick to respond by blasting the California-based corporation, claiming they had “crossed the line.”

"For Disney to come out and put a statement and say that the bill should have never passed and that they are going to actively work to repeal it, I think one was fundamentally dishonest, but two, I think that crossed the line," DeSantis told reporters in Tallahassee.

"This state is governed by the interest of the people of the state of Florida," he said. "It is not based on the demands of California corporate executives. They do not run this state; they do not control this state."

DeSantis also retaliated by signaling support for stripping Disney of its 55-year-old special status that allows the company to operate as an independent government around its Orlando-based parks, claiming the company had "crossed the line" with its statement, The Hill reported.

"Disney has alienated a lot of people now," DeSantis said at a West Palm Beach press conference. "And so the political influence they're used to wielding, I think has dissipated. And so the question is, why woud you want to have special privileges in the law at all? And I don't think that that we should."

DeSantis' fight with Disney comes during an election year for the state’s chief executive, who has been mentioned as a potential candidate for the 2024 GOP national ticket.

"This plays right into DeSantis’s narrative," one Florida Republican insider, who's not aligned with the governor, told the Examiner. "Once he gets a target like this, he doesn’t let up.”

Some Florida Republicans, though, question DeSantis' embrace of a fight with Disney seven months before the election.

"There’s more to Florida than the base," one state GOP operative told the Examiner. "You can’t win an election with the traditional Republican white men/white women demographic."