Following criticism of Monday’s statement, Disney CEO Bob Chapek agreed that he could have done better. “I understand our original approach, no matter how well intended, didn’t quite get the job done,” he said during the company’s annual shareholders meeting. Chapek took a stronger stance against the bill Wednesday, telling shareholders that he called Florida Governor Ron DeSantis Wednesday morning to convey the company’s “disappointment and concern.”
Chapek said if the legislation becomes law, it “could be used to unfairly target gay, lesbian, non-binary and transgender kids and families.” He continued by saying, “The governor heard our concerns and agreed to meet with me and LGBTQ+ members of our senior team in Florida to discuss ways to address them.”
He added that the outcome in Florida was “not what many of us were hoping for, especially our LGBTQ+ employees.” Chapek went on to explain he worked behind the scenes to denounce the bill.
“While we have been strong supporters of the community for decades, I understand that many are upset that we did not speak out against the bill,” Chapek said. “We were opposed to the bill from the outset, but we chose not to take a public position on it because we thought we could be more effective working behind the scenes engaging directly with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.”
He was hopeful that “our longstanding relationships with those lawmakers would enable us to achieve a better outcome.”
“Ultimately, we were unsuccessful,” he said.
Chapek pledged $5 million to organizations dedicated to LGBT+ rights and would sign the Human Rights Campaign’s statement opposing similar legislation across the country.
Joni Madison, Interim President of the Human Rights Campaign, released the following statement in response to Chapek:
“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, and if they do, to work to get them off the books. Businesses have had and continue to have a major impact in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights, from marriage equality to the defeat of House Bill 2 in North Carolina and beyond. 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.
“HRC encourages Disney, and all employers, to continue to fight for their employees – many of whom bravely spoke out to say their CEO’s silence was unacceptable – and the LGBTQ+ community by working with us and state and local LGBTQ+ groups to ensure these dangerous anti-equality proposals that harm LGBTQ+ families and kids have no place in Florida. Every student deserves to be seen, and every student deserves an education that prepares them for health and success — regardless of who they are. This should be the beginning of Disney’s advocacy efforts rather than the end.”
Chapek did not take a direct stand against the bill as corporate statements are “often weaponized by one side or the other to further divide and inflame.”
He finished by citing Disney projects like Encanto and Modern Family, arguing that “they are more powerful than any tweet or lobbying effort.”
However, Pixar employees have chimed in, arguing Disney has censored efforts to produce LGBTQ+ content and are demanding that the animation studio’s parent company do more with action “beyond the ‘inspiring content’ that we aren’t even allowed to create.”
I’m a LGBT writer at Disney and this is my reaction to today’s news from our CEO and the shareholder meeting regarding the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. pic.twitter.com/EMjb2ozcFx
— Benjamin Siemon (@BenjaminJS) March 9, 2022
CNN reached out to the governor’s office, and Christine Pushaw, a spokeswoman for governor DeSantis, said, “Disney contacted our office today to speak with the governor. This is the first time we have heard from Disney regarding HB 1557,” she continued stating “The governor did take the call from Mr. Chapek. The governor’s position has not changed. No in-person meeting has been scheduled yet.”