The feud between Disney and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is heating up as he gets closer to entering the 2024 presidential race.
In a quarterly earnings call with investors this week, Disney CEO Bob Iger was asked whether the state was looking for a broader economic investment, according to the company’s online filing.
Disney’s lawyers have previously filed a lawsuit in federal court to revoke the autonomy of Disney World, formerly known as the Reedy Creek Improvement District, but Iger’s lengthy response to the lawsuit was his longest public statement on the issue.
“Does the state want us to invest more, hire more people and pay more taxes? Or not?” Iger asked.
The fight began last year when Deesey publicly opposed the Parental Rights in Education Act, which the governor signed into law. Opponents of the measure, dubbed “Don’t Say Gay,” limited discussion of gender and sexuality in Florida classrooms for youth. The original has since been expanded by the state.
The ongoing feud between the Walt Disney Company and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has taken another turn; He accused the Republican governor of waging a “relentless campaign to wrest government power against Desen.”
The governor and his allies in the Florida Legislature are now trying to scrap D.C.’s decades-old agreement that allows the company to self-manage. Iger argued that the state unfairly targeted Disney, saying most of the nearly 2,000 other special districts in the state have not faced the same scrutiny. Iger specifically pointed to the district around Daytona Speedway and The Villages, an affluent retirement community.
“This is about one thing and one thing only, and this pending legislation is retaliating against our stance. And we believe that by taking that stance, we’re just exercising our right to free speech,” Iger said on the call.
The governor did not shy away from public controversy, he dedicated a chapter of his new biography to a political show.
“You can’t have a situation where the legislature says what the legislature says and a company decides to enter into a contract against the public’s will. At the end of the day, they have to understand that the party is over for them,” DeSantis told conservative news outlet Newsmax.
NBC6 reached out to the governor’s office for a response to Iger’s comments and has not yet heard back.
The latest as the Ron DeSantis vs. Disney war continues.
In conservative Lake County, about forty miles from Walt Disney World, many told NBC News they support the governor as much as Mickey Young.
“I’m definitely on DeSantis’ side. Wake up and break,” Young said.
Other voters doubted DeSantis’ rhetoric matched his record.
“What’s going around the country and now the world is saying that Florida is free, that we’ve made it more free,” Susan Perry said.
The question came from JPMorgan Chase & Co. analyst Phil Cusick on the quarterly earnings call.
“And Bob, Florida is a big part of the company’s value, but you have this political issue that just seems to get more press. You seem to be stuck with this fight. So how should investors think about the risk. Both for Disney’s immediate and long-term business?” he asked Cusick.
Iger gave a long answer.
“We all know that until we talked about the legislation, there was no concerted effort to do anything to dismantle what was once called the Reedy Creek special district. So this is clearly a case of retaliation, and the rest of Florida’s special districts basically continue to operate,” Iger said.
The CEO announced that the company will invest $17 billion in Florida properties over the next ten years.
“We’re proud of the tourism industry we’ve created, and we want to continue to provide guests with the best possible experience,” Iger said. Defend our business interests in federal court.