Florida’s Republican senators are issuing warnings to Governor Ron DeSantis over his ongoing feud with the Walt Disney Company.
DeSantis, a Republican who has served as the governor of the Sunshine State since 2019 and is widely expected to be pursuing a 2024 presidential bid, first began feuding with Disney when the company issued a statement condemning the state’s Parental Rights in Education Act. Better known colloquially as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, the law restricted the ability of public schools to discuss gender and sexual identity topics with students, provisions which have since been expanded beyond their original scope.
Disney, long known for its pro-LGBTQ+ stances, decried the bill’s passage, kickstarting a feud that saw DeSantis and his government take action against the company’s operations in Florida. The conflict has, by the reckoning of many, gone poorly for the governor, with Disney outmaneuvering him legally and filing a lawsuit against the state government, alleging that it has been politically targeted for exercising its First Amendment rights. On Thursday, Disney canceled its plans to build a new $1 billion office complex in Lake Nona, Florida, citing “new leadership and changing business conditions.” The project would have brought around 2,000 new jobs to the state.
With the economic impact of DeSantis’s war with Disney continuing to grow, Florida’s Republican senators in Washington, D.C., have spoken out, urging caution for the governor moving forward. Senator Rick Scott, who previously held the governorship from 2011 to 2019, noted in an interview how vital Disney is to the state’s economy, according to The Hill.
“This is the biggest or second-biggest employer in the state,” Scott said. “Half the tourism that comes to our state comes to visit Disney. It’s a reason people come to our state. After they come there, people move there. So I think cooler heads need to prevail. My view is we have to do everything to help our businesses grow.”
Scott also conceded that he believed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill at the root of the battle “was a good bill.”
Senator Marco Rubio, meanwhile had similar comments on the situation during an interview with Fox News last month.
“I think where it gets problematic in the eyes of some people is when you start creating the idea—and I’m not saying we’re there yet as a state—but the idea that somehow if you run crossways with us politically, whoever’s in charge, then you may wind up in the crosshairs of the legislature for political purposes to make a statement at you,” Rubio said.
Speaking further, Rubio floated the prospect of a future Democratic governor targeting Chick-fil-A, a popular fast food chain noted for the conservative politics and devout Christian beliefs of its corporate leadership.
“If it starts to be perceived that any corporate entity that’s operating directly or indirectly in furtherance of a political agenda that the powers that be don’t agree with, therefore we’re going to use the power of government to target you, you get concerned,” Rubio added. “If a Democratic [governor] and a Democratic legislature takes over Florida, they’re going to go after Chick-fil-A?”
Newsweek reached out to DeSantis’s press office via email for comment.