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DeSantis Accused of Punishing Disney for Exercise of Free Speech

Governor of Florida (USA), Ron DeSantis. EFE/Giorgio Viera/File

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is facing a legal challenge from Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, which accused the potential 2024 Republican presidential candidate of using his political power to punish the company for exercising its right to free speech.

The conflict began when Disney publicly criticized the state for its “Don’t Say Gay” law, which initially applied to grades 6-12 but has recently been extended to all grade levels. The company argues that it has no choice but to take legal action to protect its employees, customers, and business partners from the “relentless campaign” to target the company for its views.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court on Wednesday, comes after the board DeSantis appointed to oversee Disney’s special tax district voted to invalidate an agreement reached between Disney and the previous board just before its dissolution in February. Disney alleges that this action was a punitive measure meant to retaliate against the company for expressing its political views.

“Governor DeSantis has chosen to use his political power to punish Disney for speaking out,” said a spokesman for the company. “The Governor and his hand-picked board of directors have created a complete legal mess and it won’t work.”

The lawsuit seeks to invalidate the board’s decision and to restore the previous agreement between Disney and the district. It also seeks damages for alleged violations of the company’s constitutional right to free speech.

The lawsuit comes at a time when DeSantis is gearing up for a potential 2024 presidential run and has been courting conservative voters and businesses with his policies. It remains to be seen how this legal challenge will affect his political ambitions.