Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on Friday said that there was “zero” chance he would end his war against Disney, despite the dispute likely costing his state a $1 billion investment a day earlier.
DeSantis, who looks poised to soon announce his candidacy in the 2024 GOP presidential primary, has been waging a war against Disney since the company criticized his controversial Parental Rights in Education bill, also now known as the “Don’t Say Gay” law, when it was first proposed last year.
After DeSantis took steps to strip the company of its special self-governing status in response to the criticism, Disney sued the governor on First Amendment grounds, arguing that “in America, the government cannot punish you for speaking your mind.”
Disney seemingly upped the ante again on Thursday, announcing that it was pulling out of a plan to build a $1 billion complex in Orlando and move 2,000 well-paying jobs to the state. Walt Disney World Resort President Jeff Vahle said the move was due in part to “evolving economic and business conditions.”
During a media-friendly visit to the Red Arrow Diner in Manchester, New Hampshire, on Friday, DeSantis vowed to never back down, regardless of consequence. He said that he would continue to take on Disney in the name of ending “corporate welfare” and championing “free-market economics.”
“They’ve had their own government for 50 years, it’s massive corporate welfare,” said DeSantis. “We’re not doing that … They’re not going to govern themselves. We the people are going to govern. To put one corporation on a pedestal and let them be exempt from the laws is not good policy.”
“It’s not free-market economics and it’s not something that our state is going to be involved in,” he added. “We will not change from that. They can do whatever they want. I know people try to chirp and say this or that. The chance of us backing down from that is zero.”
Newsweek has reached out via email to The Walt Disney Company for comment.
In addition to likely costing Florida the new $1 billion development, the governor’s war on Disney may also be risking an additional $17 billion in investments and 13,000 jobs at Walt Disney World in Orlando over the next decade, according to a Thursday report from The New York Times.
DeSantis’ political opponents have been celebrating the fallout from the feud. Democratic California Governor Gavin Newsom said on Twitter that Disney canceling the project was evidence that “bigoted policies have consequences,” while thanking Disney “for doing the right thing” and welcoming back the jobs to his state “with open arms.”
Former President Donald Trump, who is crushing DeSantis in 2024 GOP primary polls, called the situation a “mess” in a Truth Social post on Friday, arguing that the governor “could have worked an easy settlement” with Disney but “wanted the Fake News to show what a tough guy he is.”