While Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis expressed his desire earlier this week to “move on” from his ongoing, extremely litigious battle with the Walt Disney Company, Disney isn’t backing down and continues to fiercely defend its control over the sprawling Walt Disney World property near Orlando, Florida. The company filed a series of counterclaims Thursday in response to DeSantis and his Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, which is looking to nullify measures that Disney and its Reedy Creek Improvement District board had previously agreed upon back before DeSantis took over the district.
“Disney denies each and every allegation and assertion in the Complaint,” the counterclaim reads, before going into detail and rebutting all of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District’s claims that Disney was stripping the new board of its power by passing a series of proposals shortly before DeSantis’ new board took over. Disney, it should be noted, is also suing DeSantis in federal court in a claim that he illegally nullified the agreement. It would have made sure Disney kept certain powers and maintained responsibilities over key aspects of the Disney World property.
“As a direct and proximate result of the District’s anticipatory repudiations and, in the alternative, material failure to perform its duties under both Contracts, Disney has suffered and will continue to suffer damages, including consequential damages,” the new claim from Disney reads. “Disney respectfully requests that this Court enter a judgment against the District for damages and, in the alternative, awarding such other relief as this Court deems proper, including the equitable relief of ordering the District to comply with the Contracts.”
This all stems from a dustup last year following former Disney CEO Bob Chapek chiming in (belatedly) on DeSantis’ “Don’t Say Gay” bill. After the introduction of the proposed bill, hundreds of Disney employees (or “cast members” in Disney terms) urged Chapek to respond and staged walkouts.
In the year since, Disney has replaced Chapek with former CEO Bob Iger; canceled plans to build a lavish campus in Central Florida for its Imagineering, Publishing and other divisions; and escalated its battle with DeSantis with a series of lawsuits that claim that the governor, who is vying for the 2024 Republican presidential ticket, has acted vindictively against the company. These are claims he has denied while also repeating, in press events and on the campaign tour, that Disney’s “woke agenda” is distasteful to him.
While the governor has said that he and the state have “basically moved on” (during a conversation with CNBC earlier this week), Disney isn’t backing down. “They’re suing the state of Florida, they’re going to lose that lawsuit. So what I would say is, drop the lawsuit,” DeSantis, who got married at Walt Disney World and who allowed the company to operate during COVID while most of the Disney parks around the globe were closed, urged on CNBC. Instead, Disney has doubled-down.