Another day, another memo from Disney CEO Bob Chapek as he attempts to course correct the company’s response to Florida’s Parental Rights in Education bill, aka the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
In this latest statement, Chapek says, “Speaking to you, reading your messages, and meeting with you have helped me better understand how painful our silence was. It is clear that this is not just an issue about a bill in Florida, but instead yet another challenge to basic human rights. You needed me to be a stronger ally in the fight for equal rights and I let you down. I am sorry.”
He also states The Walt Disney Company would be pausing all political donations in the state, as well as increasing support for advocacy groups to combat similar legislation in other states.
Here is the full statement:
“To my fellow colleagues, but especially our LGBTQ+ community,
Thank you to all who have reached out to me sharing your pain, frustration and sadness over the company’s response to the Florida “Don’t Say Gay” bill. Speaking to you, reading your messages, and meeting with you have helped me better understand how painful our silence was. It is clear that this is not just an issue about a bill in Florida, but instead yet another challenge to basic human rights. You needed me to be a stronger ally in the fight for equal rights and I let you down. I am sorry.
Our employees see the power of this great company as an opportunity to do good. I agree. Yes, we need to use our influence to promote that good by telling inclusive stories, but also by standing up for the rights of all.
Starting immediately, we are increasing our support for advocacy groups to combat similar legislation in other states. We are hard at work creating a new framework for our political giving that will ensure our advocacy better reflects our values. And today, we are pausing all political donations in the state of Florida pending this review. But, I know there is so much more work to be done. I am committed to this work and to you all, and will continue to engage with the LGBTQ+ community so that I can become a better ally. You will hear more about our progress in the coming weeks.
I truly believe we are an infinitely better and stronger company because of our LGBTQ+ community. I missed the mark in this case but am an ally you can count on—and I will be an outspoken champion for the protections, visibility, and opportunity you deserve.”
This all started when Disney was asked to take a stand on the Florida bill, and Chapek responded on March 7 with a non-committal response. Then at the shareholders meeting, Chapek stated the company was actually opposed to bill from the beginning, but the company decided to not make a statement, choosing instead to work behind the scenes.
He pledged The Walt Disney Company woud be donating $5 million dollars to the Human Rights Campaign for work to protect the LGBTQ+ community.
He also stated during the meeting he called Governor Ron DeSantis to discuss their concerns, and during the call, DeSantis agreed to meet with Chapek and LGBT members of the Disney team to further discuss the legislation.
Later in the day, DeSantis not only refuted he had any intentions of changing his mind about signing the bill into law, but went on to openly mock Chapek and Disney in a video stating ““The chance that I am going to back down from my commitment to students and back down from my commitment to parents’ rights simply because of fraudulent media narratives or pressure from woke corporations — the chances of that are zero,” he said.”
Following the Disney shareholders meeting, Human Rights Campaign issued a statement they “will not accept this money from Disney until we see them build on their public commitment and work with LGBTQ+ advocates to ensure that dangerous proposals, like Florida’s Don’t Say Gay or Trans bill, don’t become dangerous laws, and if they do, to work to get them off the books.”
Disney was also feeling heat from within the company as Pixar’s LGBTQIA+ employees and their allies wrote a formal statement that alleges that Disney corporate executives have demanded cuts from “nearly every moment of overtly gay affection… regardless of when there is protest from both the creative teams and executive leadership at Pixar.”
Following Pixar’s lead, both Walt Disney Animation Studios and Disney Theatrical Group issued the following statement on Twitter: “To our LGBTQIA+ community in the studio and across the world, Disney Animation/Disney Theatrical Group stands by you! We denounce any legislation that infringes on your fundamental human rights. You deserve to be safe, respected, and able to live your lives as your whole selves free from discrimination.”
And that brings us to the current statement above. We’ll keep you posted on any further statements from Chapek and The Walt Disney Company.