Faced with a tidal wave of backlash after Disney’s failure to speak out against Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, Disney CEO Bob Chapek today formally apologized to employees for the company’s failure to make it. managed to support its queer community.
In an internal memo, Chapek addressed widespread criticism of Disney’s deliberate silence in response to the “Don’t Say Gay” bill recently passed by the Florida Senate. The message was addressed to all Disney employees, “but especially to our LGBTQ+ community.”
“Thank you to everyone who reached out to me sharing your pain, frustration and grief over the company’s response to the Florida ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law,” Chapek wrote. “By talking to you, reading your messages and meeting you, I have been able to better understand how painful our silence was. Clearly, this is not just a matter of a Florida bill, but a new challenge to fundamental human rights. You needed me to be a stronger ally in the fight for equal rights and I disappointed you. Sorry.”
The apology follows a chaotic week for the head of Disney, who previously told employees Disney would not comment publicly on the bill, despite having a huge business empire in the state. The Parental Rights in Education, as it is formally called, prohibits educators from discussing “sexual orientation or gender identity” with students of certain grades and allows parents to take legal action against school districts whose educators appeal to them.
Earlier this week, Chapek had written to employees that “company statements do very little to change results or minds,” adding that “the best way for our company to drive lasting change is through the inspiring content we produce, the welcoming culture. we create, and the diverse community organizations we support.” The claim that Disney supports the community through storytelling was quickly dismissed by critics and contributors who pointed out that Disney censors queer representation in its movies and series, especially in Pixar productions.
The fallout from Chapek’s initial response was swift, with the company being criticized for failing not only the LGBTQ+ community, but especially its employees and families in Florida, who may be directly affected by the bill.
In a memo sent to Disney’s executives before the bill passed the Florida Senate, Disney employees asked the company to take a stand against the “Don’t Say Gay” law and anti -LBGTQ+ laws in other states. As one of Florida’s largest employers, they wrote, and “one that is currently relocating even more workers to the state, it is the company’s utmost responsibility to protect these individuals.” The memo was obtained and published by Variety yesterday.
In his apology to employees today, Chapek wrote that the company will increase its support for groups working to fight similar legislation in other states. Disney is also suspending all political donations in Florida, while the company “creates a new framework for our political donations that will ensure that our advocacy more closely reflects our values.” Many critics of Disney’s response to the “Don’t Say Gay” bill were quick to point to the company’s financial contributions to lawmakers who supported the bill.
Read Chapek’s full memo below:
To my colleagues, but especially our LGBTQ+ community,
Thank you to everyone who reached out to me sharing your pain, frustration, and grief over the company’s response to the Florida “Don’t Say Gay” law. Talking to you, reading your messages and meeting you helped me better understand how painful our silence was. Clearly, this is not just a matter of a Florida bill, but a new challenge to fundamental human rights. You needed me to be a stronger ally in the fight for equal rights and I disappointed you. Sorry.
Our employees see the power of this great company as an opportunity to do good. I agree. Yes, we must use our influence to promote that good by telling inclusive stories, but also by standing up for the rights of all.
Effective immediately, we are increasing our support for advocacy groups to fight similar legislation in other states. We are working hard to create a new framework for our political giving that will make our advocacy more reflective of our values. And today we pause all political donations in the state of Florida pending this review. But I know there’s a lot more work to be done. I am committed to this work and to all of you, and will continue to work with the LGBTQ+ community to become a better ally. You will hear more about our progress in the coming weeks.
I truly believe that we are an infinitely better and stronger company because of our LGBTQ+ community. In this case, I missed the mark, but I’m an ally you can count on – and I’ll be an outspoken champion for the protection, visibility and opportunity you deserve.