Ron DeSantis threatens Disney World with nearby state prison and monorail inspections

The long-running war between Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Disney executives continues to escalate.



DeSantis, out for revenge after suffering a major loss in his effort to punish Disney for being “woke,” announced a new bill on Tuesday to curb Disney’s theme parks. In a return to the question that first earned him the governor’s ire, the “Happiest Place on Earth” unveiled his first ever event to celebrate pride month on Tuesdays, with themed entertainment and specialty menu items.

It’s the latest development in the culture war between DeSantis and Disney executives, who last year publicly opposed his “Don’t Say Gay” law, which bars teachers from talking about LGBTQ+ issues or people. .

Disney got the better of DeSantis a few weeks ago after he managed to quietly strip the newly created state board of the governor who oversees the company’s special tax district, under which he was able to develop and maintain his theme parks. with relative independence.

Now DeSantis is hitting back at Mickey Mouse in the form of a bill that would require new inspections of Walt Disney World rides and the monorail connecting its theme parks and hotels. He also suggested that the new state board could convert the lands in and around Orlando’s theme parks into a state park, a competing amusement park, or a state prison — and that the board should investigate the Disney tax hike.

Disney is “no superior to the laws enacted by the people of the state of Florida,” DeSantis said at a Tuesday press conference near Disney World.

It’s unclear whether the bill, which will likely pass in the final weeks of Florida’s legislative session, would impose such a burden on Disney. To the extent that DeSantis is concerned about fighting corporate “woke” culture, “I don’t see how putting additional regulations on a monorail does that,” said Florida Democratic strategist Maya Brown.

Disney did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.

But whether DeSantis’ threats against the company are substantial or not, they are a way to redeem himself in a public relations battle he badly lost — so much so that his potential 2024 opponents for the Republican presidential nomination noticed it.

“I don’t think Ron DeSantis is a conservative, based on his actions toward Disney,” former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who is expected to make a decision on whether to run within weeks, said Tuesday. coming soon, in an interview with Semafor. Former President Donald Trump wrote in a post on his Truth Social social network that DeSantis was “absolutely destroyed by Disney.”

Matt Terrill, a Florida-based Republican strategist, said it’s telling that the governor’s potential opponents for president are going on the attack.

“It just tells you that this could be a vulnerability for the governor of the primary,” he said.

Why Disney Matters to DeSantis’ 2024 Presidential Prospects

At a time when DeSantis is far behind Trump in the polls and there is speculation in GOP circles that the governor may have waited too long to officially announce a 2024 run, losing a fight with Disney is the last thing he needs.

A key part of DeSantis’ speech for the presidency is his willingness to take on so-called “woke” societies, invoked by Republicans in reference to those that embrace progressive policies of racial and social justice, with Disney as the prime example. And he wouldn’t be the only Republican candidate to rely on that rhetoric: Right-wing activist Vivek Ramaswamy, who launched his campaign in February, has been dubbed “the CEO of Anti-Woke, Inc.” by the New Yorker.

The Governor’s battle with Disney is the subject of an entire chapter titled “The Magic Kingdom of Woke Corporateism” in DeSantis’ latest book, The courage to be free. He talks about how he got married at Disney World, something he says was really his wife’s idea, not knowing he would later “face Disney in a political battle that would reverberate across the country. “.

DeSantis describes companies like Disney as bowing to the “woke gender theory” pushed by the media by taking a stand on issues like equal rights for LGBTQ+ Americans that he thinks they shouldn’t get into. involve. And he writes about how he orchestrated a surprise special session to eliminate Disney’s special tax status – “the Florida equivalent of the hit heard ‘around the world’.”

“Leaders must be prepared to stand up and fight back when big business makes the mistake, as Disney did, of using their economic power to advance a political agenda,” DeSantis writes.

That stunt, of course, fell apart, with Disney turning the loss of its status into a win for the company. DeSantis claimed Tuesday that Disney tried to “circumvent… the will of the people” by undermining the company’s new special tax district board.

But it’s not clear that voters in Florida ever really wanted DeSantis to take on Disney. The governor may have won reelection by almost 20 percentage points and sparked a red wave in Florida in 2022. But Disney, the state’s largest employer, has consistently proven more popular than him in multiple polls. Last year.

“He travels the country talking about these victories he is having in this battle with companies like Disney, instead of focusing on the issues that Floridians face: we are being hit hard by home insurance prices that are skyrocketing, people can’t pay their rent,” Brown said.

This begs the question of whether DeSantis — focusing on culture war battles, including the one with Disney, but also restricting access to abortion and easing restrictions on guns — play good games.

“The electorate, both in primaries and in general elections, is looking for people who can get things done, but at the end of the day it has to be issues you can win on,” Terrill said.

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