Ron v. Wonderland: Disney Is Taking DeSantis To Court
Ron DeSantis may have gotten married at Disney, but his relationship with the Magic Kingdom did not get a “happily ever after.” The entertainment giant is suing the Florida governor and other state officials, alleging the DeSantis administration waged a “campaign of government retaliation” against Disney in violation of the company’s right to free speech.
In a Wednesday filing, Disney wrote that “having exhausted efforts to seek a resolution … the Company is left with no choice but to file this lawsuit to protect its cast members, guests, and local development partners from a relentless campaign to weaponize government power against Disney in retaliation for expressing a political viewpoint unpopular with certain State officials.”
DeSantis Communications Director Taryn Fenske said in response that the administration was “unaware of any legal right that a company has to operate its own government or maintain special privileges not held by other businesses in the state. This lawsuit is yet another unfortunate example of their hope to undermine the will of the Florida voters and operate outside the bounds of the law.”
DeSantis moved in February to strip Disney of its control of the Reedy Creek Improvement District, a special tax zone created for the Disney World Florida park after the company publicly opposed the administration’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill. Florida House Bill 1223 placed severe restrictions on educators’ ability to discuss gender and sexuality in classrooms, the bill was recently expanded to cover all K-12 students in the state.
The Florida government ultimately succeeded in revoking Disney’s control of Reedy Creek. DeSantis then installed a cohort of loyalists and donors to the district’s new board, including a man who once argued that hormone-laced tap water was turning people gay.
The board could theoretically prevent Disney from expanding its Florida park into lands within the Reedy Creek district. However, due to some last-second maneuvering by the company, the outgoing board managed to pass new rules to defang DeSantis’ ability to interfere with the theme park — much to the governor’s displeasure.
Last week, DeSantis vowed to seize control of Reedy Creek from Disney — and even floated building a new prison next to the park. On Wednesday, his new board passed a resolution to void the agreement established by their predecessors.
Disney World draws more than 58 million visitors, making it the most popular theme park on the planet, and, according to a study by Oxford Economics, generates more than $75.2 billion in annual economic impact for the sunshine state. As DeSantis wages his war against the Happiest (And Extremely Lucrative) Place On Earth, other prominent politicians are already hinting that they would be happy to help Disney explore other options.
“If Disney would like to move their hundreds of thousands of jobs to South Carolina, and bring the billions of dollars with them, I’ll be happy to meet them in South Carolina and introduce them to the governor and the legislature,” said Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor running for president.
Trump-Nominated Judge Will Now Oversee Disney-DeSantis Lawsuit
- Financial Conflict