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Disney CEO Gives Empty Sort-of Defense (Definitely Not an Apology) Over Donations To ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill Sponsors

Not great, Bob.

A white man (Bob Chapek) stands in front of a red carpet promo wall for Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission: Breakout ride.

Last week, the Walt Disney Company issued a statement addressing the backlash regarding political donations made to supporters and sponsors of Florida’s horrific “Don’t Say Gay” bill. The statement, made via Good Morning America, was terrible. There was no commitment to stop funding bigotry and instead insisted that it could best support LGBTQIA communities with its “inspiring content.”

Now Disney’s CEO Bob Chapek has doubled down on the hollowness of that statement with an internal memo to employees that says even less, just with more words.

“I want to be crystal clear,” Chapek’s memo reads. “I and the entire leadership team unequivocally stand in support of our LGBTQ+ employees, their families, and their communities. And, we are committed to creating a more inclusive company—and world. I understand that the very need to reiterate that commitment means we still have more work to do.”

Chapek says he held a meeting with “a small group of Disney LGBTQ+ leaders” to discuss the bill and he describes it as being profoundly impactful. “I told the group I would write to the entire company with my thoughts on the issues we discussed,” he writes. “I wish every one of our employees could have heard not just the passionate voices in the room, but the bravery, honesty, and pride those voices expressed. It is a conversation I will not forget.”

Except the vast majority of this letter isn’t about the bill or the donations made to every single one of its sponsors and co-sponsors. Instead, it almost entirely focuses on the decision not to release a statement from the company condemning the legislation. And at no point in this memo does Chapek condemn the bill.

What he does do is write at length trying to dismiss the potential impact such a statement could have while also “both sidesing” bigotry:

As we have seen time and again, corporate statements do very little to change outcomes or minds. Instead, they are often weaponized by one side or the other to further divide and inflame. Simply put, they can be counterproductive and undermine more effective ways to achieve change.

I do not want anyone to mistake a lack of a statement for a lack of support. We all share the same goal of a more tolerant, respectful world. Where we may differ is in the tactics to get there. And because this struggle is much bigger than any one bill in any one state, I believe the best way for our company to bring about lasting change is through the inspiring content we produce, the welcoming culture we create, and the diverse community organizations we support.

Chapek again digs in hard to the idea that it’s through their “inspiring content” that Disney can best support LGBTQIA people, without ever acknowledging the harm caused by financially supporting bigoted politicians.

The closest Chapek comes to acknowledging that harm is at the very end of the letter, when he writes that the company’s new Chief Corporate Affairs Officer “will be reassessing our advocacy strategies around the world—including political giving.”

Chapek says that the company has never made a donation based on this specific issue—and I believe that’s true. But funding a politician who is actively working for the oppression of LGBTQIA people just because they’re “pro-business” is not the defense Chapek seems to think it is. And no amount of “inspiring content” can cancel that out.

(image: Richard Harbaugh/Disneyland Resort via Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) has a lot of opinions about a lot of things. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri with her husband Brock Wilbur and too many cats.