Just in case there were any lingering doubts that former Disney CEO Bob Chapek was all-around the wrong man for the job, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has revealed that the ousted executive was at one point so overwhelmed by the row over the state’s Parental Rights in Education Law that he phoned the state administrator for advice on how to handle the situation – which he then in turn outright ignored.
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This new twist in the ongoing row between the House of Mouse and the Sunshine State over the latter’s newly enshrined legal ruling was first made public by the Governor himself in his upcoming memoir, The Courage to be Free: Florida’s Blueprint for American Revival.
According to DeSantis himself, as per an excerpt shared exclusively by Fox News ahead of the book’s official release, “As the controversy over the Parental Rights in Education bill was coming to a head, Chapek called me. He did not want Disney to get involved, but he was getting a lot of pressure to weigh in against the bill.”
“[He told me] ‘We get pressured all the time, but this time is different,” added the Governor. “I haven’t seen anything like this before.”
To this, DeSantis reportedly cautioned Chapek against taking any sort of concrete corporate stance, as it would serve only to open the company’s less-than-couth business practices up to further scrutiny.
“People like me will say, ‘Gee, how come Disney has never said anything about China, where they make a fortune?’” the politician noted.
However, far from just mocking Chapek, DeSantis did provide the man with advice on how to handle the situation – namely by staying out of it all together.
“When I sign [the Parental Rights in Education bill into law], you will get another 48 hours of outrage, mostly online,'” the Governor speculated to the Disney boss of the potential backlash his remaining neutral would incur. “Then there will be some new outrage that the woke mob will focus on and people will forget about this issue, especially considering the outrage is directed at a political-media narrative, not the actual text of the legislation itself.”
Unfortunately for both Disney, Chapek instead, as described by DeSantis, “ultimately caved to leftist media and activist pressure and pressed the false narrative against the bill”.
In turn, this decision by Disney to “escalate the battle” against the state’s legislature led the Governor to return fire by setting his sights on the company’s self-governing Reedy Creek residential district.
“Behind the scenes, I was not, as a father of children ages five, four, and two, comfortable with the continuation of Disney’s special arrangement,” asserted the Governor. “While the Walt Disney Company and its executives had a right to indulge in woke activism, Florida did not have to place the company on a pedestal while they do so—especially when the company’s activism impacted the rights of parents and the well-being of children.”
“Even though Democrats often rail about the nefarious power exerted over politics by large corporations, and supposedly oppose special carveouts for big companies, they all dutifully lined up in support of keeping Disney’s special self-governing status,” he added.
The lesson from this entire ordeal, he eventually summarized, was that in an era where “woke capital” reigns supreme, “old-guard corporate Republicanism is not up to the task at hand.”
Interestingly, DeSantis’ recollection of his clash with Disney stands in stark contrast to Chapek’s, namely in just how confident the CEO was in his company’s newfound political ambitions.
Speaking to the Wall Street Journal just weeks before his November 2022 firing, Chapek not only denied that Disney’s internal compass had become “too woke”, but also confidently declared his belief in the idea that “Disney is a company that survived for a hundred years by catering to its audience, and it’s going to thrive the next hundred years by catering to its audience.”
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Asked if he had any advice for anyone finding themselves embroiled in such a heated controversy, Chapek would hypocritically conclude, “Stick to your values.”
“Stick to your North Star,” he added, ignoring the fact that the entire debacle had been sparked by his own inability to do so. “Simplify the cacophony of voices out there and do what you think is right.”Though the fight between Disney and Florida provided many such examples of his weak and directionless leadership, none encapsulate Chapek’s failings better than the grovelling internal apology he issued after his initial announcement that Disney would be remaining netural in the debate over Florida’s educational future.
“I understand that we have made mistakes, and the pain that those mistakes have caused,” the CEO, who in a video obtained by independent journalist Chris Rufo looked more like a hostage reading a script than a man speaking of his own volition, told employees in April 2022. “‘And I know that our silence wasn’t just about the bill in Florida, but about every time an individual or institution that should have stood up for this community did not.”
NEW: Disney CEO Bob Chapek grovels, apologizes, and pledges to "be a better ally for the LGBTQ+ community." He delegated the company's moral authority to the "LGBTQIA+ Advisory Council" and now those internal activists have taken him as an ideological hostage. pic.twitter.com/efOSOmb47a
— Christopher F. Rufo ⚔️ (@realchrisrufo) April 7, 2022
Chapek would then assure his employees that “I and the leadership team are determined to use this moment as a catalyst for more meaningful and lasting change.”
“We have heard many suggestions on how to do that and we are working to move quickly,” he added before seemingly confirming that he had defered authority on the company’s political stewardship to a committee of activists. “I want to thank the LGBTQIA+ Advisory Council, their allies, and everyone else who submitted ideas on how we can take action. I am convening a meeting with all my direct reports and the representatives of the Advisory Council to discuss the thoughtful suggestions that have been made.”
Further, DeSantis’ claim that Chapek was so hesitant to entrench Disney in politics – so much so that he felt the need to reach out to him personally – appears to add credibility to the previous speculation that the CEO was fired because though he clearly had bought into their base goals, he refused to be a walking mat for the more extreme Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion policies – such as entering the Florida political fray – being pushed by the company’s Human Resources department.
Appearing on the November 21st, 2022 episode of the Midnight’s Edge in the Morning web show, noted Disney scooper WDW Pro proposed, “What I think probably happened is Bob Chapek — he’s got some enemies and those enemies were primarily coming out of [Latondra] Newton’s department over in HR with the DEI stuff, and that’s highly connected with ESG.”
“And I’m going to bet that as he was looking for places to make cuts in the company that he may have crossed a threshold that he wasn’t supposed to cross. And in doing so those big three investors, we’re talking about the Vanguards, we’re talking about the Black Rocks. That they may have said to the Board we’re ready to begin reassessing our relationship with you.”
“We’re not talking about fans who got mad about Star Wars,” he continued. “We’re not talking about individual investors who said I’m going to pull my $10,000 out of Disney. We’re talking about people who have the ability to say, ‘I’m pulling my billions and billions and billions that are generated through 401Ks and other things that we all have associated with you unless you get rid of this guy now.’ I think that’s what happened.”
Met with a reply of “So, to translate what you think is that Chapek went after the heart of the woke and then those institutionally pushing for it struck back big time before he got there,” from Midnight’s Edge host Andrew Einherjar, WDW Pro would affirm, “I think so and I think it has to be something that big.”
Notably, WDW Pro was alone in his theory, as the Puck’s Matthew Belloni similarly recalled, “I kept hearing that it was his handling of the call and its aftermath that was really questioned internally and by the board.”
“It was the management and judgment stuff,” said the entertainment news veteran. “Like, if the cost cuts and layoffs that Chapek announced last Friday were warranted by the worsening fundamentals of the business, why didn’t he mention them until after the earnings call led to a 13 percent stock drop? And I’m told that Disney’s H.R. group didn’t know that Chapek was going to mention layoffs in that memo to division leaders announcing his cost-cutting ‘task force,’ a move that predictably sounded alarm bells internally and created chaos for them.”
Those interested in the full scoop – as well as further insights into his political career – can get a full recap when Governor Ron DeSantis’ memoir hits shelves on February 24th, 2023.
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