Disney CEO Bob Iger remarked during a town hall event with employees that he desires to advance social causes in a more subdued fashion after the entertainment conglomerate publicly battled Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis earlier this year.
The company’s board of directors recently restored Iger, who previously served as chief executive for 15 years, to his former job and removed would-be successor Bob Chapek from the top position. Chapek positioned Disney against legislation in Florida that prohibits instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity for students between kindergarten and third grade, ultimately causing the iconic company to lose trust among many consumers.
In footage obtained by Manhattan Institute fellow Christopher Rufo, Iger claimed that the social issues favored by Disney are not inherently political, yet appeared to recognize that pushing Left-wing values has created backlash in the marketplace. “I think that some of the subjects that have proven to be ‘controversial’ as it relates to Disney have been branded political, and I don’t necessarily believe they are,” he said. “Do I like the company being embroiled in controversy? Of course not. It can be distracting and can have a negative impact on the company. To the extent that I can work to quiet things down, I’m going to do that.”
“I think it is important to put in perspective what some of these subjects are and not just simply brand them political,” he added.
The pivot from Iger, who is reportedly more Left-leaning in his personal politics than Chapek, comes after “Strange World,” an animated film featuring a homosexual teenage romance, fizzled at the box office during what should have been a strong holiday weekend opening. “Lightyear,” the latest installment in the highly popular “Toy Story” franchise, featured a same-sex kiss and likewise struggled at the box office.
Shares for Disney have fallen nearly 40% since the beginning of the year, while the Dow Jones Industrial Index has declined more than 7% over the same period. Among other concerning metrics, Disney reported a significant slowdown in new domestic subscriptions for flagship streaming service Disney+ after leaping into the fray of contentious social issues.
Iger expressed regret that Disney lost special regulatory and tax privileges after it opposed a parental rights in education bill. “I was sorry to see us dragged into that battle, and I have no idea exactly what its ramifications are in terms of the business itself,” he continued. “What I can say is that the state of Florida has been important to us for a long time, and we have been very important to the state of Florida.”
Florida lawmakers created a special economic zone for Disney called the Reedy Creek Improvement District in 1967, reportedly saving the company tens of millions of dollars per year. A bill ending the district, which is home to Disney World and other attractions, overwhelmingly passed the state legislature and was signed by DeSantis.
When asked specifically about the parental rights legislation, Iger affirmed that “LGBTQ employees” at Disney are “very important to us” and noted that the company would continue promoting “inclusion” in its work. However, he cited a “delicate balance” between telling stories and “listening” to audience members. “It’s important to have respect for the people that you’re serving, that you’re trying to reach, and not have disdain for them,” he said.
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