DeSantis Snaps Back, Boasts About Victory Over Disney

in Disney, Walt Disney World

Governor Ron DeSantis surrounded by fireworks as Disney Magic Kingdom

Credit: Inside the Magic

On Wednesday afternoon, a U.S. District Court judge shocked the United States by dismissing The Walt Disney Company’s lawsuit against Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District (CFTOD). Shortly after Disney issued a statement vowing to appeal, a spokesperson for DeSantis boasted about the state’s victory.

Judge Allen Winsor, a member of the Federalist Society appointed by former President Donald Trump, dismissed Disney’s First Amendment-based lawsuit in a 17-page ruling. He stated that allegations against CFTOD “lack merit” and that “Disney does not possess the legal standing to bring a lawsuit against the Governor or the Secretary.”

Mickey Mouse, one of the most iconic Fab Five Disney Characters, shows off his Magician's Cape at the Town Square Theater.
Credit: How to Disney

DeSantis and the CFTOD jointly filed the motion for dismissal last year. Disney argued that DeSantis orchestrated a “targeted campaign of government retaliation” as “punishment for Disney’s protected speech, which now poses a threat to Disney’s business operations, endangers its economic future in the region, and infringes upon its constitutional rights.”

The battle began in 2022 when the former Republican presidential candidate warned former Disney CEO Bob Chapek not to speak out against the Parental Rights in Education Act (“Don’t Say Gay”). Chapek condemned the controversial bill days later and vowed to pause campaign donations to politicians that supported it.

Reedy Creek Fire Dept. truck in front EPCOT's Spaceship Earth at Disney World
Credit: Reedy Creek Fire Department

Weeks later, DeSantis signed legislation to dissolve Walt Disney World Resort’s Reedy Creek Improvement District. In February 2023, the governor’s hand-selected board members took control of the municipal area, now called the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District. Months later, Disney announced its lawsuit against CFTOD and DeSantis for retaliating against free speech protected by the First Amendment.

“This is an important case with serious implications for the rule of law, and it will not end here,” Disney wrote in a statement about the case dismissal. “If left unchallenged, this would set a dangerous precedent and give license to states to weaponize their official powers to punish the expression of political viewpoints they disagree with. We are determined to press forward with our case.”

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on stage
Credit: Gage Skidmore, Flickr

DeSantis’s press secretary, Jeremy Redfern, responded to Disney less than an hour later. From Spectrum News 13 reporter Ashley Carter:

Jeremy Redfern, Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ press secretary, released the following statement:

“The Corporate Kingdom is over. The days of Disney controlling its own government and being placed above the law are long gone. The federal court’s decision made it clear that Governor DeSantis was correct: Disney is still just one of many corporations in the state, and they do not have a right to their own special government. In short – as long predicted, case dismissed.” 

The Walt Disney Company hasn’t responded to Redfern’s statement.

Did The Walt Disney Company’s lawsuit against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis have merit? Share your thoughts with Inside the Magic in the comments. 

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