(LifeSiteNews) – Florida’s new governing body overseeing the district housing at Walt Disney World Resort abolished the district’s Diversity Equity & Inclusion (DEI) committee and associated programs in the latest fruit of Republican governor and 2024 presidential candidate Ron DeSantis’ battle with the far-left entertainment giant.
The New York Post reported that the DeSantis-appointed Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, which earlier this year replaced the Reedy Creek Improvement District through which Disney had effectively governed itself for decades, on Tuesday abolished the district’s DEI committee, any jobs associated with it, and programs to award contracts on the basis of racial and gender metrics.
“Our district will no longer participate in any attempt to divide us by race or advance the notion that we are not created equal,” said DeSantis-appointed district administrator Glenton Gilzean, a black conservative. “As the former head of the Central Florida Urban League, a civil rights organization, I can say definitively that our community thrives only when we work together despite our differences.”
The move is the latest byproduct of DeSantis’ work to uproot Disney’s special privileges in the Sunshine State after it attempted to use its influence to sway public policy.
Disney, which for years has been infusing its mainstream children’s and family entertainment offerings with pro-LGBT messages and other left-wing “identity” themes, took a hardline stance in March 2022 against Florida’s Parental Rights in Education law, which bans schools from teaching children in kindergarten through third grade about transgenderism and other sexuality-related issues, limits discussions of sexuality for older children to “age appropriate” content and requires parents to be informed of any changes that could affect their child’s physical, emotional, or mental well-being.
The ordeal backfired on the company, with the law passing (and later being expanded to all grade levels) despite Disney’s efforts, and DeSantis going on to eliminate the self-governing “special district” status for Disney’s Florida theme park, which exempted it from various state regulations and conferred other financial benefits. The move ended Disney’s exemptions from the Florida Building Code and Florida Fire Prevention Code and from various state regulatory reviews and approvals, imposed new transparency requirements, ended its tax advantages, and made it liable for its own municipal debt.
The move was met with cheers from social conservatives but derision from more establishment-aligned Republicans such as House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, and former Vice President Mike Pence. Haley and Pence, both of whom are also running for the GOP’s presidential nomination, tried to frame the battle as DeSantis taking punitive action against private business, rather than untangling private business from government.
DeSantis’ actions against Disney have also been jeered by his top 2024 rival, former President Donald Trump, who in April claimed the governor was “being absolutely destroyed by Disney,” and dismissed the fight as “all so unnecessary, a political STUNT!” A month later, Trump changed his message, lamenting that Disney “has become a Woke and Disgusting shadow of its former self,” and claiming the company’s politicization “all happened during the Governorship of ‘Rob’ DeSanctimonious,” who “should have stopped it long ago.”
DeSantis, a popular second-term governor who has established one of the most proactive conservative records in the nation, has prioritized curbing the influence of “woke ideology” from corporations and educational institutions on Florida’s politics and culture, and is campaigning for president in part on taking such efforts nationwide.
However, as a former president who for months was the only declared major candidate, Trump maintains a durable and commanding lead in national polls for the GOP nomination, along with the support of many in conservative media. DeSantis has the edge in fundraising and is expected to be competitive in the early states with the help of an ambitious ground operation. Voting in the Republican primaries does not begin until January with the Iowa caucuses.