“A corporate kingdom finally comes to an end,” Florida governor Ron DeSantis said Monday at the Reedy Creek Improvement District fire station. The press conference was held to announce he had signed the bill that strips the Walt Disney Company from many of its self-governing privileges that have been in place since the late 1960s.
DeSantis repeated his “there’s a new sheriff in town” line, which he has trotted out before, and then said “accountability will be the order of the day.” This was met with applause by his small in-person audience. With Disney out of the way, DeSantis said he was hoping to acknowledge people like those that work for the district’s fire department; he also gave a shout-out to a Disney employee who started an anti-vaccination website.
“Since the 1960s, they’ve enjoyed privileges unlike any company or individual in the state of Florida has ever enjoyed. They controlled their own government. They had exemptions from laws everybody else had to follow. And they were able to get huge amounts of benefits without paying their fair share of taxes and racked up $700 million worth of municipal debt,” DeSantis said. He then defended his “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which, after several protests and walkouts from Disney employees, the company finally came out and decried.
“That was only a mild annoyance,” DeSantis said of the “little bit of a tussle” the state government endured with Disney.
“What we came to realize was that you clearly had a movement within the corporation itself that said it’s their job or their goal to inject a lot of this sexuality into the programming for young kids,” he continued, offering up no explanation or examples. “We want our kids to be kids. We want them to be able to enjoy entertainment and school without an agenda imposed upon them. We had a situation that was indefensible from a policy perspective: How do you give one theme park its own government and treat the other theme parks differently?”
Walt Disney World covers 43 square miles of land in central Florida and includes four theme parks (including one that houses live animals), two water parks, a dining and shopping district and tens of thousands of hotel rooms. DeSantis compared Walt Disney World to Sea World, which is a fraction of its size and scale. But hey, when you are (probably) running for president next year in a race to who can be the most outrageous, stripping Disney of its privileges will garner a lot of headlines.
One of the key victories that DeSantis did secure was the ability to appoint his own “state control board,” which will soon be known as the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District. DeSantis announced the candidates for the board Monday, including attorney Brian Aungst; attorney Martin Garcia, selected as chairman; Ron Peri, the CEO of The Gathering USA ministry; attorney Michael Sasso; and Bridget Ziegler, a member of the Sarasota County School Board and a supporter of Moms for Liberty (an organization described as “is an American conservative 501 nonprofit organization that claims to advocate for parental rights in schools”).
The Florida governor then introduced one of the firefighters from Reedy Creek, who made some alarming and, again, unsupported claims about the safety of Walt Disney World. That was followed by a woman named Mandy Schaffer who has lived in Florida for 40 years getting a big response when she said, “Disney has stepped into a ring with mama bears, and that is not a fight they will win. My hope is that Walt Disney’s vision will be restored and the woke ideologies of Disney will be removed forever.”
The board is going to have no real impact on the types of stories Disney (the company) tells and how those stories are translated to operations like the parks. But the idea that the new board can somehow dictate what goes into the parks and what content Disney creates is just part of the absurd fantasy that DeSantis is spinning — and his followers are believing.
DeSantis then spoke out against mask and vaccine mandates Disney wanted to impose and plugged his book, which the New York Times recently described as having a “dull coldness.”
You can watch the full press conference in the video below.