DeSantis Urges Disney to Withdraw Lawsuit Against Him, Cautions Company About Potential Defeat

Florida Governor and Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis is reaffirming his plea for Disney to abandon its lawsuit against him and other state officials in their ongoing conflict with the entertainment conglomerate. DeSantis issued a strong warning to the company, emphasizing that it is poised for failure.

During a candid interview with CNBC, DeSantis was questioned about his potential dialogue with Disney CEO Bob Iger regarding the highly publicized dispute that originated under former Disney leader Bob Chapek.

“I would advise them to return to their core strengths. It seems like the prudent business move,” DeSantis stated. “Our focus has shifted, and they are presently litigating against the state of Florida—an endeavor that is likely to end in defeat. My suggestion is to reconsider pursuing the lawsuit.”

DeSantis highlighted that Disney is grappling with challenges beyond its conflict with Florida, expressing his belief that “parents have begun to question whether this company truly represents their values in the way it traditionally did.”

The governor acknowledged his personal connection to Disney, as he and his wife tied the knot at Walt Disney World. He underlined that their relationship with the company has been positive over the years.

Furthermore, DeSantis took the opportunity to showcase Florida’s commendable record of low unemployment rates and a business-friendly atmosphere. He proposed that Disney could maintain its prosperity without the autonomous authority it is contesting in court.

“In your competitive landscape, establishments like Universal and SeaWorld have flourished without the same privileges you’ve enjoyed,” DeSantis conveyed in his message directed towards Disney. “Our aim is simple—to ensure equal treatment for all and proceed on a level playing field. I wholeheartedly support that notion. However, I am steadfast in opposing preferential treatment bestowed upon one entity while excluding others.”

FOX Business’ request for comment regarding DeSantis’ comments did not receive an immediate response from The Walt Disney Co.

The clash between Disney and DeSantis initially erupted last year when the company publicly opposed Florida’s Parental Rights in Education law, referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by critics. This law prohibits discussing gender identity or sexual orientation in lower-grade classrooms.

In response, DeSantis took action by advocating for the removal of Disney’s autonomous authority and the establishment of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District (CFTOD), which now oversees the park’s development.

However, before the new board assumed control, Disney managed to enact changes to the special tax district agreement, placing limitations on the board’s authority for an extended period.

In April, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts U.S. Inc. filed a lawsuit against DeSantis, Meredith Ivey (Secretary of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity), and members of CFTOD. The lawsuit alleged that the defendants engaged in a “targeted campaign of government retaliation,” violating the company’s freedom of speech.

In June, DeSantis requested a federal judge to dismiss the lawsuit, asserting that Disney’s claims lack merit and that the officials are protected by immunity.