Disney narrows its lawsuit against DeSantis

September 8, 2023

The Walt Disney Company on Thursday narrowed the scope of its lawsuit against Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL).

The lawsuit now focuses solely on the claim that DeSantis and his allies retaliated politically against Disney for exercising its First Amendment right to free speech. 

The Disney Company initially filed suit against DeSantis, a five-member board that DeSantis appointed to oversee its resort complex in Florida, and other state officials back in April over what the entertainment giant called a “targeted campaign of government retaliation.”

Echoing that language, the updated lawsuit reads, “A targeted campaign of government retaliation—orchestrated at every step by Governor DeSantis as punishment for Disney’s protected speech—now threatens Disney’s business operations, jeopardizes its economic future in the region, and violates its constitutional rights.”

Disney filed its suit in April moments after the five-member board voted to nullify two agreements that gave Disney vast control over expansion at the 25,000-acre resort complex.

The agreements had come out of a Florida state lawmakers meeting in February, where statehouse Republicans resolved to restructure the Reedy Creek Improvement District, the government body created in 1967 that effectively gave Disney control over the land in and around its central Florida theme parks.

Ultimately they passed a bill in February to end “Disney’s self-governing status” and give Florida’s governor the authority to appoint new board members to the district.

DeSantis had targeted Reedy Creek last year after Disney’s then-CEO Bob Chapek publicly criticized Florida’s so-called “don’t say gay” law, which restricts certain classroom instruction of sexual orientation and gender identity. 

Last week, Disney asked to drop its other claims in the lawsuit, which centered on the company’s development contracts, but said in a statement, “We will continue to fight vigorously to defend these contracts, because these agreements will determine whether or not Disney can invest billions of dollars and generate thousands of new jobs in Florida.”

DeSantis said in a cable news interview last month that he had “moved on” from from his battle with Disney, suggesting that company should “drop the lawsuit” as he denied that his administration had undertaken a “targeted campaign of government retaliation.”

Disney is reportedly the largest employer in the state of Florida, employing some 75,000 staffers and attracts 50 million visitors annually.

According to reports, Disney paid and collected a total of $1.2 billion in state and local taxes in 2022.

Read more exclusive news from Political IQ.



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