Disney Pauses Donations for These Politicians Amid 'Don't Say Gay' Backlash

Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Chapek announced on Friday that Disney will be pausing all political donations in the state of Florida following a week of significant criticism of the company's initial silence on the Florida Legislature's "Don't Say Gay" bill.

The company's lack of response to the bill, which would ban discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in some public school classrooms, sparked an intense backlash against Disney, internally and externally, prompting Chapek to shift to a public stance, calling for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to oppose the bill.

DeSantis then called out the entertainment titan for its ties to China, accusing the company for criticizing "parents' rights" but continuing to work in China despite knowledge of the human rights issues in Xinjiang regarding Uyghur Muslims.

After statements of apology to Disney's LGBTQ employees, Chapek released an internal memo on Friday further stating that the company would be pausing all political donations in Florida, affecting many of the politicians who had previously received money from the company.

Several Disney donations were made to key co-sponsors of the bill, and in total, the company gave $253,850 to senators who voted to pass the "Don't Say Gay" bill.

Donations made only for the 2022 general election go back to January 1, 2021, and records reviewed by Newsweek showed that Disney donated at least $33,000 for state Senate races and more than $98,000 in state House contests.

Other primary GOP figures who have received donations from Disney included DeSantis, who received $50,000 from Disney Worldwide Services Inc., according to the Florida Division of Elections.

Ashley Moody, Florida's attorney general, was given $25,000 from Disney during the 2022 general election cycle.

Both the Republican Party of Florida and the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign received at least $5,000.

And according to data from OpenSecrets, a nonprofit that tracks political donations, $5,500 went to Senator Dennis Baxley, who introduced the bill.

Throughout other various political campaigns, Senate President Wilton Simpson, who voted for the bill, received $21,500 from Disney, and Senators Manny Diaz Jr. and Debbie Mayfield also received over $20,000, according to the Florida Division of Elections.

"No amount of money is enough for the governor to change his position," DeSantis' office told Newsweek. "He will stand strong and never compromise when it comes to protecting children and parents' rights."

Chapek pledged to donate money to LGBTQ advocacy groups, attempting to allot funds to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the largest LGBTQ advocacy group and political lobbying organization in the U.S.

However, on Wednesday evening, HRC released a statement rejecting Disney's donation. "The Human Rights Campaign will not accept this money from Disney until we see them build on their public commitment and work with LGBTQ+ advocates to ensure that dangerous proposals, like Florida's 'Don't Say Gay or Trans' bill, don't become dangerous laws," said Joni Madison, interim HRC president.

Madison added, "While Disney took a regrettable stance by choosing to stay silent amid political attacks against LGBTQ+ families in Florida—including hardworking families employed by Disney—today they took a step in the right direction. But it was merely the first step."

Newsweek reached out to all Disney donation recipients listed for comment.

Update: 3/14/22, 11:36 a.m. ET: This story was updated with comment from DeSantis' office.

Variety Home Entertainment Hall of Fame Gala
Disney paused all political donations in Florida following backlash after refusing to speak out against the "Don't Say Gay" bill. Above, President of Disney Consumer Products Bob Chapek attends the Variety Home Entertainment Hall of Fame Gala at The Beverly Hills Hotel on December 5, 2011, in California. Alberto E. Rodriguez/WireImage