Florida politicians will stop seeing Disney's magic as the company "Where Dreams Come True" tries to escape its public relations nightmare.
CEO Bob Chapek issued an apology to employees in a memo on Friday for his handling of Disney's response to Florida's controversial Parental Rights in Education Act and announced the company is halting its political donations pending a review.
DISNEY DENOUNCES FLORIDA'S SEX EDUCATION BILL
"Speaking to you, reading your messages, and meeting with you have helped me better understand how painful our silence was. It is clear that this is not just an issue about a bill in Florida, but instead yet another challenge to basic human rights. You needed me to be a stronger ally in the fight for equal rights and I let you down. I am sorry," the memo read, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
Chapek vowed to ramp up contributions to advocacy groups committed to challenging similar legislation in other states. The pause on political donations in Florida will be in effect while the company develops a "new framework for our political giving that will ensure our advocacy better reflects our values."
Last Friday, Chapek sent a separate memo to employees seeking to ease concerns about the company's response to the Florida legislation. He refrained from taking a stance on the issue but emphasized the company's commitment to the LGBT community. In the face of growing pressure, he reversed course and denounced the bill by Wednesday. In his most recent memo, Chapek pledged to be a better ally.
"I am committed to this work and to you all and will continue to engage with the LGBTQ+ community so that I can become a better ally. You will hear more about our progress in the coming weeks," he said. "I missed the mark in this case but am an ally you can count on — and I will be an outspoken champion for the protections, visibility, and opportunity you deserve."
The Parental Rights in Education Act, which critics dubbed the "Don't Say Gay" bill, puts restrictions on discussions about “sexual orientation and gender identity” in kindergarten through third-grade classrooms. The phrase "Don't Say Gay" does not appear in the text of the legislation, which also consigns parents the right to sue school districts that defy the bill. The legislation cleared the Florida Legislature earlier this week and is awaiting Gov. Ron DeSantis's signature. He is expected to sign it.
Although headquartered in Burbank, California, the company's iconic Disney World Resort is located in Orlando, Florida. Disney has over 60,000 employees in the state and is the largest employer in central Florida, according to the Orlando Business Journal. The company has frequently donated to politicians from both parties in the state.
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In a departure from his predecessor, Chapek has tried to steer Disney out of the political fray. He argued in last week's memo to staff that "corporate statements do very little to change outcomes." But now, he has seemingly had a change of heart, insisting in his most recent memo that Disney has an opportunity to do good "by standing up for the rights of all."
The governor of the Sunshine State threw some shade at Disney's reversal at an event Thursday.
"If that’s the hill they’re going to die on, then how do they possibly explain lining their pockets with their relationship from the Communist Party of China? Because that’s what they do, and they make a fortune, and they don’t say a word about the really brutal practices at the hands of the CCP," DeSantis said. "Companies that have made a fortune catering to families should understand that parents don't want this injected into their kid’s kindergarten classroom. Our policies will be based on the best interest of Florida citizens, not the musing of woke corporations."