The Walt Disney Company has been involved in an almost two-year-long war with Governor Ron DeSantis and social conservatives.
“Don’t Say Gay”
The battle began over the Parental Rights in Education Bill (named the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by critics). Regardless of where you fall on the issue, one thing is clear…the Walt Disney Company cannot continue to afford losing audiences.
Generally speaking, when companies take political stances they often risk alienating a large segment of their customers.
Although the battle between Disney and Desantis has seemed to hurt both parties, we are now starting to see the fallout. Governor Ron DeSantis is struggling to win over voters in the Republican primary race and has been criticized by not only Democrats but others in his party over his war over Walt Disney World Resort.
Meanwhile, the Walt Disney Company has been mixed up in a cultural and political war. A recent study has shown that the Walt Disney Company is viewed as politically polarizing. And although the fight started under former CEO Bob Chapek, Bob Iger has to end it.
In addition, the company has seen a decrease in theme park attendance, lost subscribers on Disney Plus, has seen its stock hit the lowest price in a decade, and the family-friendly audiences aren’t turning out for Disney movies.
Furthermore, multiple lawsuits exist between the Walt Disney Company, the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Board, and Governor Ron DeSantis regarding Reedy Creek Improvement District contracts, free speech arguments, and allegations of government retaliation.
Aside from the battle with the Florida Governor (and 2024 presidential candidate), Disney has also been criticized by social conservatives over including LGBTQIA+ characters in films such as Lightyear (2022) and Strange World (2022).
Disney CEO Bob Iger Surrenders to Pressure
Earlier this week, Disney CEO Bob Iger told investors that the company will “quiet the noise” regarding the culture war. The Walt Disney Company has, until the past few years, stayed out of many political and cultural battles.
They seldom comment on issues such as healthcare, abortion, fair trade, and controversial issues of modern times.
For example, the Walt Disney Company would always work with the sitting president (regardless of party or policies) to update the Hall of Presidents. It was always a company focused on bipartisan American patriotism.
In a recent interview, Florida Governor DeSantis suggested that Disney drop their lawsuits.
Just like the Walt Disney Company needs to appeal to a mass market, so does a presidential candidate.
Bob Iger’s comments echo his statements from the company’s annual shareholder meeting this past April. At that time, he stated, “Our primary mission needs to be to entertain … and to have a positive impact on the world.”
It does seem for better or worse, Disney and its CEO may be surrendering to Ron DeSantis and social conservatives. Why? Because if they don’t, it could mean more layoffs, canceled projects, and a further drop in stock.
And Bob Iger doesn’t want to go down as the man who ruined Disney.