Disney Legend Compares his PR Training to “Insincere” Politicians’ Response to Uvalde Shooting

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A community is mourning in Uvalde, Texas, after a school shooting on Tuesday that left two teachers and 19 children dead.

Related: Iconic Imagineer Joe Rohde Speaks Out on ‘Guardians’ Coaster Controversy

Responses to the shooting at Robb Elementary School have been mixed, with President Joe Biden and other Democrats vowing to stand up to the gun lobby. At the same time, Republican politicians push for arming teachers and focusing on mental health support.

joe rohde
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Over the past 24 hours, Iconic Disney Imagineer Joe Rohde has been vocal on Twitter, condemning the Republican response to the tragic mass shooting in Texas.

Rohde, who is best known for designing Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park, claims most Republican responses reflect classic PR training, which he received (though he didn’t specify that it was from Disney) and now notices everywhere. He wrote:

I received endless hours of this kind of interview training. I found it to be awkward transparent drivel. I see and hear it everywhere. I believe it has contributed to the public malaise because it makes everyone sound equally insincere and evasive. Bad actors hide in the noise.

Rohde shared a screenshot of three politicians’ responses immediately following the shooting: Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema, Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn, and Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. All three used similar phrasing and keywords. Rohde wrote that it demonstrated a lack of genuine concern for the victims:

This is what a distributed pre-approved PR package looks like. Stock phrases…three points to cover. Demonstrates at the very least that these three people couldn’t be bothered to read the memo and then think of something personal and original to say. Too busy.


Responding to Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s claim that mental health is the reason for the shooting but that he isn’t “a doctor” and doesn’t “know enough about mental health,” Rohde wrote:

Contradictions like this occur exactly because people have been given these predetermined PR-based talking points. In this case “mental illness.” But they actually don’t know what to say beyond that because they have no back up information. Just trained to say these words.

Rohde wasn’t just critical of Republicans. He shared a video of Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, who said he would do “anything I can” to move “common-sense gun law” forward but still refused to eliminate the filibuster, which would allow gun legislation to get through the Senate.  He called Manchin’s response a “stock phrase” and said there’s a “whole business” of teaching people how to respond without acting in these situations:

“Anything I can” Is another one of these stock phrases.. This trained response allows an interviewee to appear ready to act, but the conditional nature of the phrase covers for any future inaction. People are taught how to say this stuff. There’s a whole a business of it.

Ted Cruz was a target of attention on social media this morning when he angrily walked away from a British journalist who asked him why mass shootings only happen at this volume in the United States. Rohde said that this is another trained PR response. Typically, deflecting a question is best, but in “this new theater of outrage,” a shutdown is the new trend:

It may not seem like it. But this is also part of PR training. Rule 1. “You don’t have to answer the question.” One is trained to deflect to talking points. But the new theater of outrage now allows for a dramatic shutdown out of feigned moral offense.

Finally, Rohde offers his opinion on why politicians are choosing deflection in this scenario: to avoid action. In response to a Disney fan who asked if conservatives truly believe gun reform wouldn’t work, Rohde argued that they know it would, but they don’t want to act. He wrote:

They don’t think that. We had stronger restrictions in the past. They did work. Everyone knows it. Remember, this is not about an actual debate. It is about deflecting attention to avoid debate

All of Rohde’s thoughts on the Uvalde shooting can be found on his Twitter, @Joe_Rohde.

Joe Rohde in DAK
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It’s important to note that Rohde’s opinions don’t reflect the opinions of The Walt Disney Company or Walt Disney Imagineering, and he retired as a Disney Imagineer in 2020.

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