Analysis: DeSantis vs. Disney: Homophobia and hate are under the surface right-wing talking points
And let’s be clear about the root cause: resistance to LGBTQ equality.
The impending removal of Walt Disney World’s special tax district is shrouded in anti-big business rhetoric. But the chain of events that led to “DeSantis v. Disney” began with the Florida GOP’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law.
Homophobia and hatred are just under the surface of the lofty talking points on “parental rights in education”.
Sure, parents have rights, but right-wing media stars and conservative lawmakers are galvanizing viewers and voters by demonizing transgender teachers and condemning Disney-inclusive shows.
The most inflammatory commentators use terms such as “child abuse” and accuse opponents of “predating” children for the purpose of sexual predation, sometimes roughly taking a teacher’s comments out of context, or acting as an outspoken educator represents an entire profession.
It is a conservative reaction to the growing acceptance of gay and transgender people, with entire networks and websites programmed in fear that conservative beliefs will be trampled on.
“We see these weaponized issues all over the country,” Democratic political strategist David Axelrod said on CNN Wednesday night.
Florida is one of the focal points. When state Republicans pushed the “parental rights” bill known as the “Don’t Say Gay” law earlier this year, a wide variety of opponents said the law could hurt the LGBTQ community by creating a chilling effect.
The internal revolt prompted both an apology and an adjustment from Disney CEO Bob Chapek. His stated support for those employees and his halting of political donations in Florida drew heavy criticism from Republicans in the state.
That’s when state lawmakers took aim at the unique status that allows Disney to operate as an independent government around its Orlando-area theme parks.
Taking a cue from DeSantis, the GOP-controlled state Senate voted to eliminate Disney privileges on Wednesday and the State House voted the same on Thursday.
Fine also implored the company to remember that “they’re a guest in our state” and said “if you want special privileges, you better behave yourself.” The expected change would not take effect until June 2023, more than a year from now. This means that Disney will have plenty of time and space to negotiate.
Disney, seeing no benefit in commenting, remained silent on the matter.
But DeSantis, sensing a political advantage as he prepares for a 2024 presidential race, is unlikely to let go. “If Disney wants to fight, they picked the wrong guy,” he claimed in a fundraising email Wednesday.