[guest post by JVW]
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis earlier this week signed the Parental Rights in Education bill which last week passed through both houses of the Florida Legislature. The new law requires public school districts to provide curriculum information to parents when requested, and prohibits districts from implementing any policy which limits parents from being informed of what is being taught to students or encourages students to withhold information from their parents. It also requires districts to inform parents of any healthcare services offered by or recommended by the district to a student. One of the major points of contention in this bill is the prohibition on “classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in certain grade levels,” which is specified as the pre-kindergarten through third grade levels. Opponents of the bill, and the anti-DeSantis brigade in general, quickly dubbed this the “Don’t Say Gay” bill and alleged that LGBTQ students of any age would be marginalized and discriminated against by these new rules. Our corrupt and feckless media being what it is, the appellation hung on the bill by activists stuck and “Don’t Say Gay” quickly became standard nomenclature in most mainstream coverage of the bill.
Particularly grating has been the response from the Disney Corporation, which operates what they claim is the largest single-site employment operation in the United States (77,000 people at Walt Disney World). I half-jokingly pointed out that apart from pre-adolescent girls Disney probably has no market segment more loyal to it than gay men, yet even accounting for that Disney has been hypocritical, demagogic, and shrill in their condemnation of the bill. But yesterday came word that Disney might also be shading the truth about their allegedly principled opposition as well. Here is what the governor had so say about their campaign:
I also thought it was interesting — I talked to the speaker of the [Florida] house yesterday afternoon, and he said that Disney never called him as they were putting this [legislation] through the house. They didn’t seem to have a problem with it when it was going through. [If] this was such an affront, why weren’t they speaking up at the outset?
Florida House Speaker Chris Sprowles confirmed that Disney lobbyists had not once mentioned the Parental Rights in Education bill to him, and they apparently did not contact any members of the Florida House either:
What’s more, Sprowls pointed out, is that there is no record of any lobbyist working on behalf of Disney ever having lobbied any member of the Florida House on the bill.
“We checked the action packets for the House Education and Employment, and Judiciary, and Senate Appropriations Committee hearings where HB 1557 was considered,” said Sprowls. “The Walt Disney Corporation did not submit any appearance cards on the bill for any of these meetings. Furthermore, the Florida House requires lobbyists to identify which bills they are lobbying on and no Disney lobbyist registered on HB 1557.”
The registry indicates that Disney had at least 19 different representatives lobbying members of the House on a number of different pieces of legislation in 2021, including the Big Tech bill from which it was granted an exemption. There is no record that a registered lobbyist advocated against HB 1557 for the company.
It would appear that Disney did manage to rouse itself into opposition — right at the time that the coordinated “Don’t Say Gay” media campaign began to rear its ugly head — once the bill made its way to the Florida Senate, but given that Disney seemed to be responding more to an aggressive public relations campaign rather than with a genuine sense of outrage, one can be forgiven for being very cynical about the company’s true motivations.
It’s not as if Disney doesn’t have its radical woke element, even in the corporate suites. On Tuesday, a Zoom video of Disney leadership leaked in which a prominent executive argues that Disney needs to do more to promote gay characters to Disney’s youngest fans:
SCOOP: Disney corporate president Karey Burke says, "as the mother [of] one transgender child and one pansexual child," she supports having "many, many, many LGBTQIA characters in our stories" and wants a minimum of 50 percent of characters to be LGBTQIA and racial minorities. pic.twitter.com/oFRUiuu9JG
— Christopher F. Rufo ⚔️ (@realchrisrufo) March 29, 2022
So with Disney both vowing to fight for the repeal of the Parental Rights in Education law and also having senior-level employees agitating to make LGBTQ issues more prominent in their entertainment options, it seems that a reckoning is now due. There have been some recent developments — the backlash against the success of transgender swimmer Lia Thomas being a prime example — which indicate that the pro-trans movement may be stalling out and perhaps even be headed for some public relations losses. In some polls, strong majorities of Americans register support for the ideas embedded within the Sunshine State’s Parental Rights in Education law, and even a majority of registered Democrats in Florida support the bill if the “Don’t Say Gay” sobriquet is eschewed, though of course modern polling is pretty wretched and of questionable reliability for a variety of reasons. It could be that Disney ends up deeply regretting going out on a limb here, but somehow I doubt that a parent-led boycott of the company will withstand the release of the next princess movie or the opening of a really cool ride in the theme park.
I want to give Ron DeSantis the last word since I always appreciate well-laid derision and because I made this very suggestion to him a couple of weeks ago. As he closed up his remarks seen in the video below (which also has his full remarks about Disney’s lobbying efforts), he went there:
Ron DeSantis fires back at Disney for opposing the parents rights bill:
"Corporate executives do not run this state… If we would’ve put in the bill that you are not allowed to discuss the oppression of the Uyghurs in China, Disney would’ve endorsed that in a second.” pic.twitter.com/VQ3rXY486K
— Greg Price (@greg_price11) March 29, 2022
Nicely done, governor. Bravo.