Bob Chapek, CEO of The Walt Disney Company, has clarified the multinational and media conglomerate’s stance on the controversial “Don’t Say Gay” bill that has recently passed in the Florida Senate and House. Disney’s statement was issued following weeks of scrutiny and criticism for the company silence on the bill while continuing to donate money to statewide elected officials who support it.
“I want to be crystal clear: 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,” Chapek wrote in a memo to staff (via The Hollywood Reporter). “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.”
The Parental Rights in Education bill would ban curricula concerning LGBTQ issues in some Florida classrooms, limiting what classrooms can teach about sexual orientation and gender identity.
Chapek reportedly told staff, “I do not want anyone to mistake a lack of a statement for a lack of support… 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.”
However, not all Disney employees see it that way. An NPR report collects a wide array of quotes from actors, animators, and directors who have worked on Disney franchises calling for a full-throated denunciation of the bill. For example, Dana Terrace, the creator of the animated series The Owl House announced an upcoming charity livestream with a tweet saying she is “f***ing tired of making Disney look good.”
Online newsletter Popular Information has tabulated that in the last two years, Disney has donated $197,126 to politicians backing the new bill. The publication also notes that Disney’s previous CEO, Bob Iger, was quick to threaten a boycott in Georgia when an anti-LGBTQ bill in that state was proposed in 2016. On March 2, The Hollywood Reporter quoted an unnamed source familiar with both Iger and Chapek’s managerial styles and thinking, and speculated that the latter is concerned that Disney “might be viewed as too liberal.”
The CEO said he will discuss the issue further at the company’s Reimagine Tomorrow Summit in April. The initiative is Disney’s “way of amplifying under-represented voices and untold stories as well as championing the importance of accurate representation in media and entertainment.”