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Florida Governor Ron DeSantis Escalates His Attack on Disney, Now Also Lashing Out at Twitter

Aren't Republicans supposed to be 'pro-business'?

Ron Desantis looks curiously through a chain link fence

When Disney CEO Bob Chapek finally, after much pushback from consumers and employees alike, spoke out against Florida’s cruel anti-LGBTQ+ legislation (the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law), Governor Ron DeSantis retaliated by saying he wanted to reevaluate Disney’s special tax status in Florida.

It was a surprising threat, given Disney’s immense influence in Florida. The company brings an estimated $75.2 billion in tourism revenue, is the state’s largest private employer, and donates heavily to politicians, mostly Republicans. As one state senator told The Washington Post recently, “This is kind of like your mom and dad fighting at the dinner table … Both of them play a pivotal role within the state. Florida without Disney is damaged. And Florida without a strong governor is weak.”

But DeSantis is moving ahead with his plan anyway. Since 1967, the Walt Disney Corporation has had an incredible level of autonomy, essentially acting as its own small government in a district called Reedy Creek. Now as part of a special legislative session, DeSantis is calling on lawmakers to end all “independent special districts” in the state that were formed before 1968, including Reedy Creek. Coincidental timing, no?

There are some entirely valid arguments for ending Disney’s special status in Florida. In a recent Washington Post op-ed, Abigail Disney—granddaughter of Roy O. Disney and frequent critic of her family’s company and legacy—said she was “not entirely proud of my grandfather, Roy O. Disney, for coming up with [Reedy Creek] — much as I adored the man.”

Disney writes: “Protections for rent-seeking practices ought to be reviewed. And as much as I have to lose as a shareholder from saying so, I will admit: Disney is a creative company that for far too long has relied on crafty political machinations to protect its advantages while doing very little creative production beyond sequels, remakes, tent poles and so on — with the notable exception of animation.”

But even if you agree that it’s time for Disney’s special status to end, Desantis’ motivations are troubling, as it’s clear he’s leading this charge as retaliation against Chapek’s condemnation of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation. DeSantis is sending a message that companies expressing criticism of political policy will face consequences—a message he’s already expanding to other companies.

This week, DeSantis weighed in on Twitter’s battle with Elon Musk after the billionaire attempted a hostile takeover of the company. Twitter instituted a “poison pill” protection (which basically just keeps Musk from snatching up too many shares) and DeSantis is pissed about it.

“We’re gonna be looking at ways the state of Florida potentially can be holding these Twitter board of directors accountable for breaching their fiduciary duty,” DeSantis told reporters. He said Musk was trying to “liberate” Twitter from censorship and told his supporters to “stay tuned” to see what action they could be taking against the company’s board.

Republicans have long branded themselves the pro-business party. But they’ve also become the party of full-on authoritarianism and now that those two ideals are turning out to be at odds with one another, it’s entirely unsurprising to see which road they’re now choosing to go down.

(image: James Gilbert/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.