Ron DeSantis' War on Disney is 'Foolish Move,' Former Florida GOP Rep Says

Ron DeSantis' battle with Disney over the company's opposition to the so-called "don't say gay" bill is "foolish" and shows the Florida governor as thin-skinned, according to a former GOP congressman.

David Jolly, who represented Florida's 13th congressional district between 2014 and 2017, believes that DeSantis may have gone too far in going after Disney in the latest outbreak of the culture wars.

Jolly, who left the Republican Party in 2018 and is a vocal critic of top DeSantis ally Donald Trump, told The Washington Post the governor was taking a risk by feuding with a company that is a major source of pride, and income, in the Sunshine State.

"It's a foolish move politically, but he'll use it as currency in the Republican Party politics of today to say it's a war on woke," Jolly said.

"Disney will be fine. But what this does is show Americans that Ron DeSantis is a governor with a glass jaw who cannot tolerate criticism. That's what this is about, nothing more than that."

DeSantis has frequently criticized Disney after it came out against HB 1557, legislation the governor signed into law on March 28 that aims to ban the discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in certain grades at Florida schools.

In a statement, The Walt Disney Company said that the bill "should never have passed and should never have been signed into law" and announced it will seek its repeal.

DeSantis, a political firebrand, has rejected all criticism of HB 177 including its description as a "don't say gay" bill, and accused Disney of having "crossed the line" by voicing their opposition to state legislation.

One of his other attacks on the business was accusing it of double standards for running a cruise line which docks in Dominica—where homosexual intercourse is illegal—while objecting to the bill.

"You've got to wonder why is the hill to die on to have transgenderism injected into kindergarten classrooms, or woke gender ideology injected into second grade classrooms," DeSantis asked Fox News' Tucker Carlson.

"Meanwhile if we've done a bill that prohibited talking about the abuse of Uyghurs in China, Disney would've supported that legislation. They won't say a word about that."

Disney was criticized in 2020 for filming parts of its Mulan movie in Xinjiang, a Chinese region where many Uyghur Muslims have been interned in "re-education camps", according to human rights groups.

The governor has also debated whether to repeal Disney's special benefits protected under the Reedy Creek Improvement District, which essentially allows Disney to run as its own self-governing authority in Florida.

State Rep. Spencer Roach, who also wants to repeal that law that allows the company to self-govern, said that Disney—the largest on-site employer in Florida with nearly 80,000 workers—has been seen as "politically untouchable" until DeSantis began his battle.

"They've been such a political juggernaut that the repeal of Reedy Creek was never seen as remotely possible," Roach said. "There's an opportunity now where Disney has been politically weakened, and there's an opportunity to correct what I would label as an historic aberration in the free market."

The governor's office declined to comment on Jolly's remarks when approached by Newsweek.

David Jolly desantis
Former GOP congressman David Jolly believes Ron DeSantis' attacks on Disney is a "foolish move politically." Alex Wong/Joe Raedle/Getty Images