Bob Iger Pushes Back on DeSantis’ Disney Retaliation in Florida: ‘Not Just Anti-Business But It Sounds Anti-Florida’

He also addressed the company’s so-called “woke” agenda

Bob Iger CODE Conference
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For the first time, Bob Iger is speaking out and addressing the ongoing battle between the company and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

During Disney’s annual shareholders meeting Monday, Iger answered a bizarre question about the company’s so-called “woke agenda” with the kind of poise and composure that made him such a favorite of his employees and the shareholders.

“Let me address this issue, which I haven’t really done much publicly,” Iger said. “But I’d love the opportunity just to put it all in perspective. First of all, I know you said you’re a resident, I think of Melbourne, Florida. We love the state of Florida. And I think that’s reflected in not only how much we’ve invested over the last 50 years, but how much we’ve given back in the form of jobs and community service taxes which you brought up, tourism, of course, and all sorts of other responsible business practices. We’ve also always respected and appreciated what the state has done for us. It’s kind of been a two-way street.”

Iger then discussed the decision, by former CEO Bob Chapek, to address DeSantis’ so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill (after mounting pressure both internally and externally). It was a totally botched handling of the situation, something that Iger acknowledged.

“But a year ago, the company took a position on pending Florida legislation. And while the company may have not handled the position that it took very well, a company has a right to freedom of speech just like individuals do,” Iger said. “And obviously in taking the position, the governor got very angry about the position Disney took and seems like he’s decided to retaliate against us, including the naming of a new board to oversee the property and the business, in effect to seek to punish a company for its exercise of a constitutional right. And that just seems really wrong to me, against any company or individual but particularly against the company that means so much to the state that you live in. That you can put that in perspective we have over 75,000 employees which I noted in my opening, countless thousands of indirect jobs have been created.”

He then continued: “About 50 million visitors will go through our gates this year alone, about 8 million of them from outside the U.S. and we are the largest taxpayer in the state. And you may find this interesting as it relates to future taxes but we’re currently planning now to invest over $17 billion in Walt Disney World over the next 10 years. And those investments we estimate will create 13,000 new Disney jobs and thousands of other indirect jobs and they’ll also attract more people to the state and generate more taxes. And so our point on this isn’t any action is that towards those efforts, simply to retaliate for a position the company took sounds not just anti-business but it sounds anti-Florida, and I’ll just leave it at that.”

Although he didn’t quite leave it at that.

The next caller seemed to suggest that Disney is alienating key demographics and customer bases by taking a stand politically (at all). This has actually been backed up by some internal polling Disney has conducted over the past few months.

“As the CEO of the company, I think my job is to strive to do what I think is best for our business. And that includes doing what’s best for our cast members or our employees and what will enable both to flourish? I don’t think we should or can weigh in on every issue. And I also understand there are going to be gray areas, there are going to times and we decided to weigh in on an issue that we believe is worthy of debate because of its relevance and importance to our business or to our employees,” Iger explained. “And there are times when I’ve actually believed we shouldn’t. But I strongly feel that we alone have to determine whether, when or how to weigh in on a on an issue, whether it’s private or public. Of course with the standard that when we take a position on those matters, there’s a true reason why we have. In almost all cases it has to be because it directly affects our business or our people. And I think if you look back, you know, for decades, corporate America has expressed themselves on numerous issues of both right and wrong and our country, I think, is better off for that. And it was evident during the Civil Rights Era, as I recall as a child, when a lot of companies weighed in on injustice is that they saw in America. It was certainly true during World War II when those that stood in silence, in some ways, still carry the state of indifference. As long as I’m in the job, I’m going to continue to be guided by a sense of decency and respect and trust our instincts that when we do weigh in, we weigh in because the issue is truly relevant to our business and to the people that work for us.”

Of course, this was immediately followed by a crackpot call that said that Disney was “grooming” children and a lot of other nonsense about the company’s so-called woke agenda. Iger handled it with aplomb.

“Thank you very much for your question. I know you were talking about more than just content, you were telling us about experiences that we provide to people, which we actually pride ourselves on being accessible to all people. But let me let me put some perspective, if you don’t mind,” Iger started. “Our company is celebrating its 100th year this year. And we’ve been telling stories for 100 years that are aimed at entertaining and inspiring families from all over the world. And we’re extremely proud of the positive impact we’ve had on billions of people over that 100-year period of time and for generations. The stories that we’ve told touch people’s hearts because they’ve been infused with right values. They’ve celebrated heroes and emphasize the value of family and friendship or they’ve instilled a steady faith and the belief that good triumphs over evil that tomorrow was always brighter than today. And I think those stories have had an amazingly positive impact on the world a world that always loves and needs great stories, and heavens great entertainment, particularly in today’s world. And we’ve recently gotten criticism as you just expressed for what some perceive to be agenda driven content.”

Iger continued: “I’m sensitive to that actually, our primary mission needs to be to entertain and then through our attendant entertainment to continue to have a positive impact on the world and I’m very serious about that. It should not be agenda driven. It should be entertainment driven. That should be the goal in all of our stories. And while I know we’re just never going to please everyone all the time. We should be sensitive to the fact that parents have different levels of comfort with the content that is delivered to their children. I want I want parents to be able to trust the content that we’re creating for the children. And we’re committed to delivering age-appropriate content for family audiences, while also telling stories that reflect the world around us. and that foster a greater understanding, greater perspective greater acceptance of all people, and it’s just my hope that that Disney continues to be a source of hope and optimism for the world. And we’re honored to actually carry forth Walt’s legacy of inspiring joy and wonder for everyone. Thank you very much.”