DeSantis told ex-Disney CEO Bob Chapek to stay out of Florida's fight over 'Don't Say Gay' bill, book says

Key Points
  • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said in a forthcoming book that he advised former Disney CEO Bob Chapek to stay out of a political battle over state legislation that critics dubbed the "Don't Say Gay" bill.
  • DeSantis is seen as a leading contender for the 2024 GOP nomination, rivaled only by former President Donald Trump.
  • DeSantis wrote that he explained to Chapek that there will be short-lived waves of outrage directed at Disney, but the "woke mob" will move on from the issue.

In this article

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks to police officers about protecting law and order at Prive catering hall on February 20, 2023 in the Staten Island borough of New York City.
Spencer Platt | Getty Images

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said he advised Disney's then-CEO Bob Chapek to stay out of a political battle over legislation in his state limiting discussion of sex and gender in public schools, according to the Republican's forthcoming book.

Excerpts from "The Courage to Be Free: Florida's Blueprint for America's Revival" were reported Monday by NBC News and other outlets on the same day DeSantis signed a bill stripping Disney of the self-governing status it has long held in the state.

In the book, DeSantis wrote that Chapek called him as Disney heard an outcry over the legislation, which critics have dubbed the "Don't Say Gay" bill.

"We get pressured all the time," Chapek told DeSantis, according to the excerpt. "But this time is different. I haven't seen anything like this before."

DeSantis wrote that he replied: "Do not get involved with this legislation."

"You will end up putting yourself in an untenable position," DeSantis said. "People like me will say, 'Gee, how come Disney has never said anything about China, where they make a fortune?'"

Disney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

DeSantis' book, set to be published Tuesday, is the latest indication that the high-profile Republican is gearing up for a 2024 presidential run.

DeSantis, who was easily reelected governor in November, has largely kept mum about his presidential ambitions. But polls nevertheless show him as a leading contender for the GOP nomination, rivaled only by former President Donald Trump.

The first excerpts of DeSantis' book show the governor presenting himself as an unwavering warrior against the media and corporate figures he identifies as being allied with, or cowed by, the political left.

"All too often, GOP governors have bowed to corporate pressure, especially on noneconomic issues; I was going to stand firm in defense of the rights of parents and the well-being of our schoolchildren," DeSantis wrote in a chapter titled, "The Magic Kingdom of Woke Corporatism."

After he noted at the start of the chapter that he and his wife got married at Walt Disney World in Florida, DeSantis argued that the "Don't Say Gay" label was "inaccurate" to describe a bill that merely contained "substantive protections for parents to object to the imposition of teaching of sexuality and gender ideology" in kindergarten-through-third-grade classrooms.

Critics have said the bill's vague language, and the ability it provides parents to sue schools for violating it, could lead to the targeting and marginalization of LGBTQ teachers and kids.

President Joe Biden called the bill "hateful." Similar federal legislation introduced by House Republicans last year is highly unlikely to pass in the current Congress.

Chapek's predecessor as CEO, Bob Iger, echoed Biden's condemnation.

"I'm with the President on this! If passed, this bill will put vulnerable, young LGBTQ people in jeopardy," Iger tweeted in February 2022.

Iger returned as Disney's CEO following Chapek's ouster in November.

DeSantis' book suggested that Iger's remarks put more pressure on Chapek, who "initially understood the risk that the company faced in this no-win dispute."

DeSantis wrote that in his call with Chapek, he explained that Disney would face short-lived waves of outrage before the "woke mob" would move on to other issues.

But Disney "ultimately caved to leftist media and activist pressure," DeSantis wrote. "The left thought that Disney's opposition would pressure me to veto the legislation, but that was not going to happen."

DeSantis signed the bill into law in March 2022. Disney quickly vowed to help get it repealed.

Earlier Monday, DeSantis signed a bill giving the state new power over the area that has long granted Disney special self-governance abilities.

"Allowing a corporation to control its own government is bad policy, especially when the corporation makes decisions that impact an entire region," DeSantis said in a statement touting the end of the "corporate kingdom."