On February 27th, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill that allowed him to appoint members to the supervisory board of the the Reedy Creek Improvement District (RCID) - which governs the land surrounding DisneyWorld. At the time, DeSantis said: "Today, the corporate kingdom finally comes to an end. There's a new sheriff in town." Here's how Disney responded:
Jeff Vahle, the president of Walt Disney World Resort, said the company was "ready to work within this new framework, and we will continue to innovate, inspire and bring joy to the millions of guests who come to Florida to visit Walt Disney World each year."
I was a bit disappointed. It's not because I have any love lost for a major corporation like Disney. Rather, I thought that kow-towing to a fascist like DeSantis set a terrible precedent.
So I have to admit that I giggled a bit when it was announced that Disney was going to host the Out and Equal Workplace summit in Orlando for the next two years. Billed as "the largest LGBTQ+ conference in the world," it felt like Disney was sticking it to DeSantis just a bit.
But then the really big news broke on Wednesday. I'll let Michael Hiltzik explain:
Did you really believe that Florida’s arrogant, petty, childish Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) would get the better of Walt Disney Co. in their fight over Disney’s supposed “wokeness”?
If so, you don’t know your Disney.
DeSantis handpicked a board of cronies to take over control of Reedy Creek Improvement District — the quasi-governmental entity that Disney and Florida established more than 55 years ago to control development and management of the land on which Walt Disney World, EPCOT and the company’s related enterprises are located.
DeSantis’ board has now revealed that, while they were snoozing, Disney executed an agreement with their predecessors that strips the new board of all its powers except the authority to “maintain the roads and maintain basic infrastructure,” according to one of the new board members.
Apparently at their meeting on February 8th (two days after the bill to replace them was introduced), the former members of the RCID supervisory board signed an agreement with Disney that basically neuters DeSantis's new board.
Of course, DeSantis's people are crying foul and have hired four law firms (yes, you read that right - 4 law firms) to challenge the agreement.
Disney responded with a statement saying that "all agreements signed between Disney and the District were appropriate and were discussed and approved in open, noticed public forums in compliance with Florida's Government in the Sunshine law." In other words, the RCID board considered and approved the agreement at a public meeting. The agreement was also recorded with the Orange County Comptroller on Feb 9 - the day before the Florida legislature passed the bill.
One can only surmise that DeSantis didn't notice what Disney and the RCID board were up to because he was too busy running around the country proclaiming that "Florida is where woke goes to die!"
But DeSantis isn't the only one that got made to look like a fool. Last November Disney fired their CEO Bob Chapek and rehired the guy who preceded him in that position, Bob Iger. I suggested that didn't bode well for DeSantis. But Christopher Rufo saw things differently and took the opportunity to write a piece titled, "Disney Retreats."
Iger is signaling that Disney is moderating its position in the culture war. As I have been saying for months, the conservative strategy was to damage Disney’s brand, make the company pay a political price, and force the company to declare neutrality.
So far, it appears that the strategy is working.
Rufo cherrypicked a few items from a town hall Iger held with Disney staff to make that claim. For example:
[I]n response to the suggestion that “many cast members had wished that Disney stayed out of politics,” Iger expressed regret. “Do I like the company being embroiled in controversy? Of course not,” he said. “It can be distracting, and it can have a negative impact on the company. And to the extent that I can work to kind of quiet things down, I’m going to do that.”
Here's the video of what Iger actually said:
EXCLUSIVE: I have obtained video from returning Disney CEO Bob Iger's first town hall with employees, in which he signals that he will work to "quiet things down" politically and move toward neutrality in the culture war.https://t.co/ZBGdHhxFVS pic.twitter.com/ZbMCZN4MlG— Christopher F. Rufo ⚔️ (@realchrisrufo) November 29, 2022
Contrary to what Rufo claimed, Iger didn't talk about moving "toward neutrality in the culture war." Instead, he was making the point that some of the issues that have been considered controversial for Disney were branded "political," but he doesn't believe they are. As Iger told Chris Wallace last year, "I tweeted an opinion about the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill in Florida. To me, it wasn’t about politics. It is about what is right and what is wrong."
When it comes to Iger suggesting that he would "quiet things down," today's headline at CNN suggests he's doing just that. It reads (emphasis mine): "Disney quietly took power from DeSantis’ new board before state takeover."
As I said, I'm not one who usually celebrates victories won by major corporations. But a day that sees BOTH DeSantis and Rufo being made to look like fools is a good day. So thanks to Disney and Bob Iger.
The other good thing to come out of all of this is that I learned what FAFO stands for (I'll let you figure it out by following the link). That - and a whole host of other giggles at the expense of DeSantis - can be found by reading the reactions to this Twitter thread. For example, who doesn't love a good reference to The Wire?
If you come at the King, you’d best pay attention to the lawfully noticed public meeting agenda pic.twitter.com/cXbIMDIQhO— Joan Allen (@Jallen_sf) March 30, 2023