Florida Governor Ron DeSantis urged The Walt Disney Co. to drop its lawsuit against him, while telling CNBC that he has “moved on” from his battle with company and that it should drop the lawsuit against him.
Last Call host Brian Sullivan asked DeSantis why he doesn’t just pick up the phone and call Disney CEO Bob Iger to resolve the dispute. “We’ve basically moved on,” DeSantis said. “They are suing the state of Florida. They are going to lose that lawsuit. So what I would say is, ‘Drop the lawsuit. You have the state that even CNBC ranks as number one of all 50 states for economy.”
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Ron DeSantis Again Claims Immunity From Disney Lawsuit Over Theme Park District; Former Governors Side With Company In Friend-Of-The-Court Brief
Disney sued DeSantis in April, claiming that the governor violated the company’s First Amendment and other constitutional rights. DeSantis led an effort to strip the company of control of a special district that covers its Florida theme parks, in what Disney said was retaliation after it opposed a parental rights bill, known by detractors as the “don’t say gay” law, last year.
DeSantis told CNBC that the special district was a case of giving “extraordinary privileges to one special company at the exclusion of everyone else.” But Disney’s lawsuits includes numerous examples where the governor engineered efforts to target the company specifically, including legislation aimed at regulating its monorail system, while boasting that the company has been silent on social issues.
In an interview in May, DeSantis said, “Since our skirmish last year, Disney has not been involved in any of those issues. They have not made a peep. That, ultimately, is the most important, that Disney is not allowed to pervert the system to the detriment of Floridians.”
A Disney spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment on DeSantis’s latest statements.
DeSantis had been making his fight with Disney a part of his presidential campaign. On the campaign trail, he has accused the company of embracing efforts to get “sexualized content in the programming for the young kids.” Iger called that claim “preposterous.”
The special district was set up more than 50 years ago as Disney was developing its Florida property. It was designed to give the company control over development decisions as well as taxing and bonding authority.
Earlier this year, DeSantis appointed a new slate of directors to the board of the special district, now renamed the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District. The board filed its own lawsuit against Disney in state court, seeking to invalidate development agreements Disney made with the special district in the weeks before control passed to the state.
Even though DeSantis has highlighted his battle with Disney and other cultural issues in his campaign, his poll numbers have sagged as front-runner Donald Trump has maintained a large lead nationally and key early primary states.
Iger has called DeSantis “anti-business” and “anti-Florida.” In the CNBC interview, DeSantis said that “no one has made Disney more money recently than me because during Covid, they were open in Florida. They were locked shut in California. We said, ‘We want you guys to operate because we understood how important it was that their cast members in Central Florida had the ability to make ends meet. In fact, when Disney closed their parks, I didn’t tell them to close. They did it voluntarily.”
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