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Bob Chapek

Despite Backlash, Chapek Keeps Disney Quiet on Florida Politics – Here’s Why

“Whatever Bob’s personal politics are, he’s not an activist and does not bring any partisan agenda to work. He sees himself first and foremost as the custodian of a unifying brand that for nearly a century has been bringing people together, and he is determined that Disney remain a place where everyone is treated with dignity and respect.

 “He believes the best way we can help create a more inclusive world is through the inspiring content we produce, the welcoming culture we create and the diverse community organizations we support.”

–Disney Chief Corporate Affairs Officer, Geoff Morrell

Disney CEO Bob Chapek is catching flack from fans once again. Both he and the company remains quiet while the Parental Rights in Education Bill makes its way through the Florida legislature.

Here’s a breakdown of the situation.

The Bill in Question

Credit: WFLA

Nicknamed by its opposition the “don’t say gay bill,” the new legislation looks to bar primary school teachers from having conversations about gender identity. Citing instances where teachers have told their students to hide lessons from their parents and that it’s okay to not “pick” their gender yet, those in favor of the bill claim that such conversations are inappropriate for students as young as the first grade–who should be asking questions about math and science rather than their existential identity. But the main purpose of the bill is to put control of such discussions back into the hands of the parents rather than leave it to institutional education’s discretion.

“Schools need to be teaching kids to read, to write,” DeSantis said, according to NBC. “They need to teach them science, history. We need more civics and understanding of the U.S. Constitution, what makes our country unique, all those basic stuff.”

“The larger issue with all of this is parents must have a seat at the table when it comes to what’s going on in their schools,” he added.

While many in The Sunshine State and the rest of the nation will see the bill passing as a triumph of individual parents over the public school system, the opposition will see the new policy to be a form of LGBTQ+ suppression. That opposition has been looking to large LGBTQ+ companies like Disney for support in their fight. And that’s where Bob Chapek comes in.

Chapek/Disney’s Situation

Disney CEO Bob Chapek

Disney CEO Bob Chapek Credit: Disney

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Considering the fact that The Walt Disney Company owns enough Florida land to cover Manhattan Island twice and the Walt Disney World Resort is one of the largest employers in the state–and its recent activities and accolades regarding LGBTQ+ issues–, one can see why it would be expected for Chapek to speak out against the Parental Rights in Education Bill.

Disney has slowly begun to be more “inclusive” across all fronts of its business, dropping LGBTQ+ stories for children such as Out on Disney+, and even turning La Fou from Beauty and the Beast gay.

We at Disney Fanatic also recently shared that The Walt Disney Company received a Top Corporate Equality Index Score from the Human Rights Campaign and most recently launched a corporate responsibility website, impact.disney.com. 

From employee training to no longer even specifying “ladies and gentlemen” in Park announcements, Disney has been named one of the Best Places to Work for LGBTQ+ Equality due to: “Non-discrimination policies across business entities; Equitable benefits for LGBTQ+ workers and their families; Supporting an inclusive culture; and Corporate social responsibility.”

Much of this has happened under former CEO Bob Iger, who, on February 24, retweeted Biden’s negative sentiments of Florida’s bill, saying: “I’m with the President on this! If passed, this bill will put vulnerable, young LGBTQ people in jeopardy.”

But it is the current CEO, Bob Chapek, that is at the helm of The Walt Disney Company, and he has remained silent on the matter.

Political Activism: Bob vs. Bob

Chapek and Iger

Disney CEO Bob Chapek and former Disney CEO and Executive Chairman Bob Iger. Credit: Collider.com

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The current Disney Bob is quite different than the previous one. From hairstyle to executions in the Parks, it is not that much of a stretch to say Bob Iger did things differently than Bob Chapek, and Disney fans have not shied away from making that dissonance known. One particular way they appear to differ is in their handling of politics.

It could be argued that CEO Bob Iger was very much a political figure. After all, he’s had to maintain Disney Parks on three continents: Parc Disneyland and Walt Disney Studios Park in France, Tokyo Disney Resort in Japan, Hong Kong Disneyland in Hong Kong, as well as Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure in California and Disney World Theme Parks in Florida. Iger also worked directly with Xi Jinping and the CCP in order to bring Shanghai Disney Resort to life and expanded pre-existing Disney Parks with acquired Star Wars and Marvel attractions. He even opened up about running for President under the democratic party.

It was an era of unprecedented global expansion that required the diplomacy of a politician. Bob Chapek, however, appears to be more focused on the business as it exists right now.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, “a source familiar” with Iger and Chapek’s thinking said,Iger tended to speak out not only when issues affected the company’s business interests but when they affected its employees, now numbering about 195,000. But this person says Chapek has taken a narrower view and has been concerned that Disney might be viewed as too liberal.”

Another “knowledgeable source” that spoke with THR mentioned, “Chapek is private about his politics but is believed to be much more conservative than Iger, who was a registered Democrat before becoming an independent in 2016.”

“‘Chapek is staunchly opposed to bringing Disney into issues he deems irrelevant to the company and its businesses,’ this person says,” wrote THR.

Chapek Still Addresses LGBTQ+ Concerns

Bob Chapek

Credit: Spectrum News 13

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However, it should be noted that Chapek is not ignoring the issue. Rather than speak publicly like his predecessor, he appears to settle matters internally.

THR reports that Disney’s Chief Diversity Officer Latondra Newton shared that Chapek wished to “meet with leaders in our company’s LGBTQ+ community to discuss how Disney can best support these important and valued employees and Cast Members.”

Newton also disclosed that Chapek intends to participate in a conversation event called “Reimagine Tomorrow on March 22 to discuss “issues of concern to our LGBTQ+ colleagues.” On April 13,  The Walt Disney Company also looks to host the “Reimagine Tomorrow Global Summit…the first gathering of our employees worldwide to discuss our progress on and plans for improving diversity, equity and inclusion at Disney.” Chapek is also expected to participate in that.

While Governor DeSantis has directly stated that he would sign the bill into law, the Parental Rights in Education Bill passed the House, and it is expected to pass the Senate, where is it still expected to receive his signature.

About T.K. Bosacki

TK is a writer and editor based in Tampa, FL with a passion for all things Disney, and adventure.