GUEST COMMENTARY - The Editorial Board of the Orlando Sentinel has published a scathing takedown of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) for what it described as his “foolish, petty, and ultimately selfish political vendetta” against Disney.
DeSantis has made it clear he is unwilling to relent in his feud with the entertainment company — which all began with Disney’s opposition to DeSantis’s Don’t Say Gay law.
Most recently, DeSantis has called for an investigation into Disney after it out-maneuvered his attempt to strip the company of its special tax privileges as retaliation for speaking out against him.
The Sentinel’s board skewered DeSantis for gearing up to expend even more effort on battling Disney, saying he wants to waste money “on a small army of very expensive attorneys” instead of actually serving the people of Florida.
“Whenever you happen to be in Florida,” the board wrote, “focus on your actual job: Running a massive state government where people are dying every day of drug overdoses and mass shootings that you barely acknowledge. Where school boards across the state are grimly awaiting the final price tag of the economically reckless voucher bill you just signed. Where insurance rates are skyrocketing and damage claims from back-to-back hurricanes are being summarily denied. Where, every day, we’re discovering more cracks your machinations have inflicted on the fundamental integrity of Florida’s own government.”
The board also pointed out that DeSantis’s war with Disney put the state at extreme economic risk.
“If Disney executives had responded to DeSantis in the same vengeful vein — by pulling back even a small fraction of the resources the company has invested in Florida — the economic wreckage could have been massive.” The board called Disney’s response “elegant and witty” and said, if anything, DeSantis has created a “situation where Disney has more control, and potentially more secrecy, than it ever did.”
After Disney spoke out against the Don’t Say Gay Law, DeSantis not only continuously criticized the company in public, but he also oversaw the Florida legislature’s revocation of Disney’s decades-old special zoning agreement to punish them.
Disney’s Reedy Creek Improvement District was established in 1968 and granted Disney World the power to tax itself to pay for water, power, roads, and fire services on the 25,000-acre property near Orlando. Abolishing it significantly reduced Disney’s autonomy.
DeSantis signed the bill abolishing the district in February and declared that “the corporate kingdom finally comes to an end.”
The bill also allowed him to create a five-member board (appointed by him) to oversee government services in Disney’s district.
But members of DeSantis’s new board began their tenure by discovering that the previous board snuck in a last-minute development agreement with Disney that allows the company to maintain much of its autonomy and renders the new board pretty much powerless.
Clearly intent on humiliating DeSantis, the Sentinel Editorial Board also infused some humor into its editorial, accusing the Governor of allowing his “inner Donald” to govern his actions. “In this case, we mean Donald Duck,” the board wrote.
The editorial board said DeSantis is living in a “Fantasyland” where he “cast himself as the hero” and also lambasted his repeated missteps in his quest for vengeance against Disney just for exercising its constitutional right to free speech.
It also called out DeSantis for not paying attention to the very public agreements Disney was making to prevent DeSantis from taking the company’s power.
“So take your advice from the Queen (and in this case, we mean Queen Elsa),” they concluded. “Let. It. Go.”
DeSantis has been ruthlessly mocked for being outplayed by Disney, but he has made it clear his war isn’t ending anytime soon.
A spokesperson for DeSantis, Jeremy Redfern, made that known in a recent statement: “Disney is again fighting to keep its special corporate benefits and dodge Florida law. We are not going to let that happen. As Governor DeSantis recently said, ‘You ain’t seen nothing yet.’”
At a recent shareholders meeting, Disney CEO Bob Iger called DeSantis “anti-business.”
“Our point on this is that any action that thwarts those efforts simply to retaliate for a position the company took sounds not just anti-business, but it sounds anti-Florida,” he said, according to CNN.
“The company has a right to freedom of speech just like individuals do,” Iger continued. “The governor got very angry about the position that Disney took, and it seems like he’s decided to retaliate against us… in effect to seek to punish a company for its exercise of a constitutional right. And that just seems really wrong to me – against any company or individual, but particularly against a company that means so much to the state that you live in.”
(Molly Sprayregen is a queer writer. Her work can be found in Out Magazine, Them, Into Magazine, The Associated Press, LGBTQ Nation, Roxane Gay's Gay Magazine, and more. More info at MollySpray.com. This article was first featured on LGBTQ NATION.)