Disney’s public exercise in self-destruction is one of the best things to come of the dust-up over Florida’s very moderate Parental Rights in Education law. It’s created essential transparency for a moment. The nation now is becoming aware of Disney’s grooming proclivities on multiple fronts, and the very real threat the one-time beacon of American capitalism poses to children.
And further, there is a blinking neon lesson for the wokeist corporations that they cannot win in these situations, as both Republican and Democratic events have been canceled at Disney for opposite ends of the same issue. Perhaps corporations could actually return to being non-political, although to do so would be to have the spine to ignore their propaganda-addled younger employees.
That lesson may be too late for Disney as the reality is settling in for many people that the company’s left turn is not a new shift for Walt’s legacy. Disney was woke long before the term entered the vernacular. The outlines were visible with Disney’s purchase of ESPN when it acquired Capital Cities/ABC in 1996. Within a few years, ESPN began infusing more and more of its sports coverage with social justice commentary, seeds that have blossomed into a forest of wokeness at the sports network that has turned off hundreds of thousands of sports fans. Disney also owns the rights, through ABC and ESPN, for NBA games—not coincidentally the wokest of all American sports.
For Disney, the sick end of wokeness goes deep. In 2014, CNN reported that Disney had a “child sex predator” problem through a series of stories highlighting the unusually high number of arrests and convictions in the previous years. Those stories are now being revisited—though not by CNN—and likely there is more investigative reporting underway by conservative outlets to see what those numbers look like since then.
The reality is that the public schools targeted by Florida’s Parental Rights in Education law—the ones about which Disney doth protest too much—have a documented problem with grooming. The inimitable Christopher Rufo has uncovered several instances of this in the public schools, all documents readily available to any—any—member of the media who is not interested in shoving them down the memory hole.
In 2014, the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office published a 72-page report warning the public of the known risk of child predators in public schools. The report explained the grooming—which sounds eerily like what Florida’s law is trying to stop—and recommended that teachers be monitored for such “grooming behaviors” that held the potential for sexual misconduct and abuse. The report mentions the words “groom” or “grooming” 13 times.
- In 2017, the U.S. Department of Education published a report warning that public school employees “groom” children which leads to committing “sexual misconduct” against 10 percent of all K-12 students.
- In 2021, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, a Democrat, signed actual “anti-grooming legislation” that expanded the definition of the word “grooming” and forced all Illinois public schools to adopt stronger policies to protect students from teacher sexual misconduct. Illinois got no pushback from the rainbow crowd.
- In reality, Florida lawmakers have taken a very modest step in trying to contain a known problem, prompting Disney to side publicly with some of the most vile tactics used against children. That action is coming with a huge price tag. In addition to untold thousands unsubscribing from the Hulu and Disney+ streaming services, and whatever the toll may be on its theme parks, Disney has nuked the good will it enjoyed with governments at every level.
There are now two very possible results of this colossal PR blunder.
First, almost assuredly Republicans will retake the House in November when Disney’s special character copyrights are up for renewal. With the GOP in charge, it now seems unlikely that Disney will continue to enjoy that special status as leadership likely will not vote to extend the copyrights on Mickey Mouse and other iconic characters, and few Democrats will come to Disney’s aid. That is a giant intellectual property loss to the company that will balloon into the billions of dollars in coming years.
Second, few people until recently were aware that Disney World essentially is a government unto itself. Disney has a special status in Florida as its own local governing entity that sets its own land-use rules while at the same time the state provides it with extra tax exemptions. Those special privileges are now at risk—a risk that was zero in January. It’s not like Disney World can pick up and move its $2 billion property investment elsewhere. Plus, it has plans for significantly more development and expansions.
Bottom line, Disney has everything to lose and now, because it is vowing to stop political donations, it has no leverage. This is a financial and political disaster and the full results of it may not be known for years.
Disney locked in the animosity from the Right when CEO Bob Chapek groveled, apologized, and pledged to “be a better ally for the LGBTQ+ community” like he was in a hostage video, then went further to say Disney would fight to overturn Florida’s modest law. That is when Governor Ron DeSantis said that Disney had “crossed the line” and it became clear all those special statuses were in jeopardy.
Conservatives, however, misunderstand the situation if they think the blowback against Disney originates from the Right only. They need to realize that the Left remains upset at what it considers Disney’s timid initial response to the parental rights bill. The Florida Democratic Party’s Leadership Blue Gala, its biggest annual fundraiser, was just canceled at Disney and moved to the Marriott in Tampa.
The president of the Florida LGBTQ+ Democratic Caucus called the decision to hold the fundraiser at Disney “tone deaf” and he was happy with the change. “We appreciated at the time that FDP [Florida Democratic Party] heard everyone’s concerns and moved Leadership Blue away from Disney,” said Stephen Gaskill.
Disney may take a long time to figure out how to come back from this self-inflicted carnage. But other major U.S. corporations can learn: Stand up to your loud, spoiled, woke kiddo employees or take the real-world lumps.