Disney CEO Bob Chapek criticized the company’s handling of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law today. Chapek said the company’s initial response, “as well-intentioned as it may be, didn’t quite get the job done, but we’re committed to supporting the community going forward.”
Disney recently came under fire for refusing to openly condemn the “Don’t Say Gay” law — which prohibits primary school teachers from having “discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity” — despite it being a thriving business empire in the state. In an internal memo sent to staff on Monday, Chapek had written that “corporate statements do very little to change results or change minds,” adding that “they are often weaponized by one side or the other to further divide and to ignite.” The refusal to speak out against the harmful legislation quickly drew criticism from Disney fans, creators and the company’s employees.
Speaking at the company’s annual shareholder meeting on Wednesday, Chapek said he wants to “take a moment to clear up some of the concerns I’ve heard from many about legislation affecting that LGBTQ+ community in Florida.” Claiming that Disney “has been strong community advocates for decades,” Chapek said, he is aware “that many are angry that we didn’t speak out against the bill.”
Chapek added that while “we opposed the bill from the start,” the company “chose not to take a public position on it because we thought we could work more effectively behind the scenes by engaging directly working with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, and we were hopeful that our long-standing relationships with those lawmakers would enable us to achieve a better outcome.” Those discussions had no meaningful impact, Chapek acknowledged, as the bill passed this week by the Florida Senate and is expected to be signed into law by Republican Governor Ron DeSantis.
The Disney boss said he personally called DeSantis Wednesday morning to “express our disappointment and concern that if legislation becomes law, it could be used to unfairly target gay, lesbian, non-binary and transgender children and families. ”
“The governor heard our concerns and agreed to meet with me and LGBTQ+ members of our Florida senior team to discuss ways to address them,” Chapek said. “Certainly, the outcome in Florida was not what many of us were hoping for, especially our LGBTQ+ employees. And sadly, many other states are considering legislation targeting their communities, meaning this battle will continue.”
To fight bigotry legislation against the LGBTQ+ community, Chapek said Disney would sign the Human Rights Campaign’s statement against these efforts and pledged to give $5 million to organizations like HRC committed to protecting the rights of LGBTQ+ people. individuals.
“As I wrote to our employees earlier this week, we are committed to supporting civil society organizations like this so that they are better equipped to face this battle,” he said.
“In the meantime, we are also evaluating our advocacy approach, including political donations in Florida and beyond. I understand that our original approach, however well-intentioned, didn’t quite get the job done, but we are committed to supporting the community going forward.”