The Walt Disney Company filed a lawsuit against Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday asking the court to block the state’s efforts to assert control of the company’s Walt Disney World theme parks in Orlando, escalating a political battle between one of America’s largest companies and a potential competitor. To the White House….
The lawsuit represents the company’s response to increasing efforts by DeSantis and his followers to bring Disney, which draws millions of visitors each year to its massive theme parks, the first of which opened in 1971.
“The Company has no choice but to file this lawsuit to protect its cast members, guests, and local development partners from a relentless campaign to weaponize government power against Disney in retaliation for expressing a political viewpoint unpopular with some state officials,” the company said in its lawsuit.
A spokesperson for DeSantis called Disney’s action “an unfortunate example of their hope to undermine the will of Florida voters.”
“We are not aware of any legal right for the company to run its own government or to maintain special privileges that other government corporations do not have,” DeSantis spokesperson Jeremy Redfern said on Twitter.
The lawsuit alleges that DeSantis’ newly formed tourism board violated Disney’s contractual rights, doing so without fair compensation and withholding due process. Disney also argues that it has been denied free speech rights under the First Amendment. The company is asking the court to declare the legislative action in Florida illegal.
The battle began last year after the company criticized a state law that bans discussions of sexuality and gender identity in classrooms.
Disney CEO Bob Iger called the retaliation against the company “anti-business” and “anti-Florida”. The company employs approximately 75,000 people in the state.
DeSantis, who is being considered a possible candidate for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, is currently traveling in Asia as part of a visit to several other countries.
Shares of Disney rose slightly on Wednesday afternoon.
Last year, state Republicans targeted Disney after a public clash with DeSantis.
Florida lawmakers passed legislation ending Disney’s independence in developing the 25,000 acres in central Florida where its theme parks are located.
But before the takeover by DeSantis’ appointees, Disney pushed to change a special tax district agreement that had restricted the board’s work for decades.
Shortly before the lawsuit was announced, Florida’s new Board of Supervisors said Disney’s plans for potential expansion of Walt Disney World Resort did not comply with state law, and said the agreement was void.
The Central Florida Tourism Oversight Board unanimously supported the attorney’s findings regarding legal flaws in Disney’s February deal with an earlier board, including the lack of proper public notice.
“What our lawyers have told us is, in fact and in law, that what they have created is an absolute legal mess,” said Chairman Martin Garcia. ” Will not work. “
A Reuters/Ipsos poll showed that the dispute could boost support for DeSantis among US Republican voters, but also hurt him among the broader electorate.
73% of respondents — including 82% Democrats and 63% Republicans — said they are less inclined to support a political candidate who supports laws intended to punish a company for its political or cultural stances.