DeSantis Takes Control of Disney’s Self-Governing District in Retaliation for Criticism of ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has taken a significant step to increase his power in the state by signing a bill that will give him control of Disney World’s self-governing district.[0] This move is the latest development in a year-long feud between DeSantis and Disney, which began last year when Disney’s then-CEO Bob Chapek criticized DeSantis’ “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which was designed to restrict discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in classrooms.

In response, DeSantis first tried to dissolve Disney’s special self-governing district, but the policy raised logistical and fiscal questions, so he pivoted strategies and signed the bill that gives him control of the district and the power to appoint the members of its governing body.[1] The new district is now known as the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District.[2]

Among those appointed to the five-member board are conservative activists and political allies of the governor, including Bridget Ziegler, a Sarasota County School Board member and co-founder of the conservative education group Moms for Liberty, and Martin Garcia, a Tampa lawyer and prolific Republican donor.[3] Ziegler had backed the “Don’t Say Gay” legislation, while Garcia has donated $260,000 to political campaigns in Florida, including $53,000 to DeSantis and $25,000 to the Republican Party of Florida.

The law comes amid Disney’s opposition to the “Don’t Say Gay” law, which prohibits classroom instruction and discussions about sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade — and in older grades if they are not “age appropriate or developmentally appropriate.” LGBTQ rights organizations have said the ban would open the door to discrimination against students, limiting even discussion about their own families.[4]

DeSantis wrote in his upcoming memoir that Chapek told him, “We get pressured all the time. But this time is different. I haven’t seen anything like this before.”[2] After Disney vowed to fight the legislation in the courts, DeSantis signaled publicly that he would be willing to reevaluate Disney’s special tax district and favorable corporate agreements due to their insistence on “woke” political activism.[0]

0. “Former Disney CEO privately complained to DeSantis about ‘pressure’ from woke left amid Florida fight: book” Fox News, 27 Feb. 2023,

1. “Ron DeSantis’ Disney World district takeover is faux populism” MSNBC, 1 Mar. 2023,

2. “DeSantis cements takeover of Disney’s special Florida district, new book reveals clash with the company” NBC News, 27 Feb. 2023,

3. “Makeover of Disney’s special district is complete as DeSantis appoints new board” Miami Herald, 27 Feb. 2023,

4. “Florida Gov. DeSantis takes over Disney district on eve of book launch” USA TODAY, 27 Feb. 2023,

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