Walt Disney CEO Bob Chapek issued an apology to Disney employees for not taking a stronger stance on a new Florida education bill, HB 1557, which critics have dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
“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 in a statement. “You needed me to be a stronger ally in the fight for equal rights, and I let you down. I am sorry,” he added.
Chapek, who became Disney’s CEO in 2020, also promised that the multinational entertainment and media company would immediately begin supporting advocacy groups fighting similar legislation in other states.
“We are hard at work creating a new framework for our political giving that will ensure our advocacy better reflects our values. And today, we are pausing all political donations in the state of Florida pending this review. But, I know there is so much more work to be done,” Chapek said.
As reported by The Christian Post, Disney previously came under fire for donating to Republican lawmakers who support HB 1557, which bans teaching on sexual orientation and gender identity for kindergarten through third-grade students. Contrary to popular belief, the bill does not prohibit the use of the word “gay” in classrooms.
Chapek concluded his statement by noting that he will continue working with the LGBTQ community to become “a better ally.”
“I truly believe we are an infinitely better and stronger company because of our LGBTQ+ community. 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.”
Before publishing his statement, Chapek spoke with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and expressed his issue with the bill. According to DeSantis’ press secretary Christina Pushaw, the Republican governor’s position on the bill remained unchanged after speaking with Chapek.
“The governor did take the call from Mr. Chapek. The governor’s position has not changed. No in-person meeting has been scheduled yet,” she tweeted.
During a meeting with supporters last Thursday, DeSantis doubled down on his support for the bill and criticized Disney for holding to a double standard regarding human rights.
“When you have companies that have made a fortune off being family-friendly and catering to families and young kids … they should understand that parents of young kids do not want this injected into their kid’s kindergarten classroom,” DeSantis said.
“And I also think that you have companies, like a Disney, that are going to say and criticize parents’ rights, they’re going to criticize the fact that we don’t want transgenderism in kindergarten and first-grade classrooms, if that’s the hill that they’re going to die on, then how do they possibly explain lining their pockets with their relationship from the Communist Party of China?” he asked. “They don’t say a word about the really brutal practices that you see over there at the hands of the CCP.”
DeSantis went on to say that the Sunshine State’s policies will not be derived from “the musing of woke corporations.”
HB 1557, which has passed the Republican-led state legislature, awaits DeSantis’ signature.
Photo courtesy: Pan Xiaozhen/Unsplash
Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer and content creator. He is a contributing writer for Christian Headlines and the host of the For Your Soul Podcast, a podcast devoted to sound doctrine and biblical truth. He holds a Masters of Divinity from Alliance Theological Seminary.