Disney CEO Slammed After Refusing to Condemn Florida Anti-Gay Bill

Disney CEO Bob Chapek is being blasted on social media after saying that the company "unequivocally" stood with its LGBTQ+ employees, but wouldn't specifically condemn a new anti-gay law that was passed in Florida.

"We are committed to creating a more inclusive company—and world. I understand that the very need to reiterate that commitment means we still have more work to do," Chapek said in an internal memo on Monday.

The memo was published in response to Florida's new "Don't Say Gay" bill. The legislation, passed in the Florida House last Thursday, would prohibit "classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity" in schools.

The bill was widely seen as being discriminatory, and backlash was seen against the GOP-led bill and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who supported the legislation. DeSantis previously said that the bill was actually about preventing sex-ed in classrooms with young children, saying: "Do you really want them being taught about sex?"

A number of protesters urged Disney, which has numerous properties in the state, to speak out against the legislation.

Disney heiress Abigail Disney, who is the grandniece of company founder Walt Disney tweeted on March 3: "When laws are being passed that are this hateful and dripping with prejudice, there is no neutrality. Not saying anything is saying a lot. ⁦@WaltDisneyCo get a spine."

"One common theme [in a recent LGBTQ+ meeting] was disappointment that the company has not issued a public statement condemning the legislation," Chapek said. "That disappointment was compounded by the fact that, while not perfect, our company has a long history of supporting the LGBTQ+ community—and in fact, has played an important role in the personal journeys of so many of our employees."

"I also believe you deserve an explanation for why we have not issued a statement," the memo continued. "As we have seen time and again, corporate statements do very little to change outcomes or minds. Instead, they are often weaponized by one side or the other to further divide and inflame. Simply put, they can be counterproductive and undermine more effective ways to achieve change."

Bob Chapek
Disney CEO Bob Chapek is facing backlash after he released a memo saying that the company stood with its LGBTQ+ employees, but stopped short of condemning a new law in Florida that many view as being anti-gay. Above, Chapek can be seen during a gala in Beverly Hills in 2011. Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty

"I do not want anyone to mistake a lack of a statement for a lack of support. We all share the same goal of a more tolerant, respectful world," Chapek said, adding, "in 2021, [Disney] provided nearly $3 million to support the work of LGBTQ+ organizations."

Following the public release of Monday's statement, many voices expressed their displeasure with Chapek's lack of condemnation regarding the bill.

"What a garbage salad that Bob Chapek statement is," tweeted Tim Carvell, the executive producer of HBO's Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. "Literally saying nothing would have been better."

"From a PR standpoint, there are ways to react to current events by speaking proactively, ways to react by not speaking proactively, and then there is Bob Chapek's pick-and-choose Disney strategy," tweeted journalist Ray Wert.

"Disappointed that ⁦@Disney⁩ and CEO Bob Chapek care more about corporate profits than the values they claim to espouse," tweeted Representative Mark Pocan, who is a Democrat from Wisconsin. "Remember that when you pick up a kid's gift this year. Disney apparently doesn't care about you as much as their bank account."

"For better or worse, Disney is a titan in the landscape of media and culture," tweeted animator Matt Burnett. "Throw your f**king weight around and stand for something good in the world other than the power of magic, dreams, wishes, or whatever other amorphous word you are branding everything with today."

Chapek did say in his memo that additional information and a further conversation on the topic would take place at the upcoming Reimagine Tomorrow Summit in April. The company's website says that the summit amplifies "underrepresented voices and untold stories as well as championing the importance of accurate representation."

Newsweek has reached out to the Walt Disney Company for comment.