Walt Disney Co. Chief Executive Bob Chapek reversed course on his policy of staying out of politics and stepped into the debate over a controversial education bill in Florida that critics say targets LGBTQ youth.
After saying publicly on Monday he didn’t want to weigh in on politics, Chapek said at the company’s annual meeting Wednesday that he had told Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis he was concerned about the bill’s potential consequences for LGBTQ children. Chapek also is pledging to spend $5 million on contributions to LGBTQ causes.
For the past week, Disney
employees, contractors and fans, many of whom live in Florida and work at Disney World, have been pressuring the company on social media and in online petitions to take a public stand against the Parental Rights in Education bill. The measure, called by opponents the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, passed the Florida Senate on Tuesday. When Disney executives said they wouldn’t declare a stance, saying their inclusion efforts were best focused on representation in Disney programming, the outcry only grew louder.
On Wednesday, Chapek told shareholders: “We were opposed to the bill from the outset, but we chose not to take a position on it…because we felt we could be more effective behind the scenes.”
Chapek said DeSantis had agreed to meet with him and LGBTQ members of Disney’s senior leadership to discuss the company’s concerns about the bill. Disney has also signed onto a letter from the Human Rights Campaign disavowing the bill and said it would donate $5 million to LGBTQ causes, he said.
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