Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s political image has been damaged by being “punked around” by Disney, according to former Republican National Committee (RNC) Chair Michael Steele.
DeSantis, who is widely expected to run for president in 2024, has been engaged in a protracted public feud with the Walt Disney Company that many argue has not gone well for the governor. The company, which is the largest employer and tax-paying entity in Florida, last year spoke out against the state’s Parental Rights in Education Act, better known colloquially as the “Don’t Say Gay Bill,” which prohibited discussions of gender identity and sexual orientation in public schools.
In response to the criticism, DeSantis and the Florida state government passed legislation that dissolved the special governing zone around the Walt Disney World theme park near Orlando, known as “Reedy Creek,” which had allowed Disney to assume the authorities and duties of a county government for the area. In its place would be a board appointed by DeSantis.
The move backfired, however, when the outgoing Reedy Creek board passed a measure that transferred considerable power over the area from itself to the Walt Disney Company overall, effectively depriving DeSantis’s new board of power before it had even taken over. The measure is set to remain in effect “until twenty-one (21) years after the death of the last survivor of the descendants of King Charles III, king of England” as of the date it was passed.
The legal maneuver by Disney has widely been perceived as a detriment to DeSantis’s image as a politician, an especially dire prospect for the governor as he prepares to mount a presidential campaign. During a Sunday appearance on MSNBC, Steele, who served as RNC Chair from 2009 to 2011, argued that Disney had “punked around” DeSantis during the back-and-forth and made it hard for voters to take him seriously.
“People realize that he’s got a glass jaw, he’s got thin skin,” Steele said. “He’s petulant, he’s pouty, he whines a lot, and they don’t like it. That’s not strength. They want a guy who wants to fight. I mean look, when you lose a battle against Mickey Mouse, it’s kind of hard to take you seriously, right?”
During the exchange, Steele and the host Jonathan Capehart also discussed a recent NBC News poll showing DeSantis lagging behind former President Donald Trump among Republican voters by a double-digit margin. DeSantis, once considered by many as the future of the GOP and a major threat the Trump’s re-election chances, received 31 percent support from the poll’s 1,000 respondents, while the former president garnered 46 percent.
Newsweek reached out to DeSantis’s press office via email for comment.