The Ongoing Battle Between Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and The Walt Disney Company: A Clash of Free Speech and Business Interests

The ongoing battle between Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and The Walt Disney Company has escalated, with Disney CEO Bob Iger publicly calling out the governor’s actions as “anti-business” and “anti-Florida”.[0] The dispute began after Disney publicly opposed the Parental Rights in Education Act, also known as the “Don’t Say Gay Bill”, which DeSantis pushed through last year.[1] In response, the Florida legislature, at DeSantis’ direction, passed a bill stripping leadership of the Reedy Creek Improvement District, which gave Disney self-governing status over the land housing its parks.[2] However, weeks before the new DeSantis-appointed members were set to take control of the district’s board, leadership approved a declaration granting Disney “prior review and comment” over proposed property changes.[3]

The bill passed in February gave government oversight of the district to a DeSantis-appointed board and renamed it the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District. DeSantis also gained the power to appoint five board members.[4] Iger has accused DeSantis of retaliating against Disney for exercising its constitutional right to free speech.[5] Disney has stood by its actions, stating that all agreements between the company and Reedy Creek board were “appropriate” and “discussed and approved in open, noticed public forums in compliance with Florida Government in the Sunshine law.”[6]

The Reedy Creek Improvement District has overseen Walt Disney World since it first opened in 1971, acting essentially as a local government that controls issues such as construction permits, infrastructure, and services like the fire department or waste removal.[7] While the special district is separate from Disney, the company has traditionally wielded a lot of power, as the previous board was essentially handpicked by Disney.[8] However, the February bill enacted new legislation that took control of the special district and changed it so that board members are now appointed by the governor.

DeSantis has called for an investigation into the board that previously ran the district overseeing Disney World, his latest counterattack in the ongoing battle against the entertainment giant.[9] DeSantis and his supporters were caught off guard by Disney’s decision, which contradicts one of DeSantis’ key talking points that he had been using extensively during his reelection campaign and in his recent travels around the nation.[10] The governor has repeatedly talked about how he bested Disney after the company came out publicly against the state’s parental rights in education bill.[10]

Iger has warned that DeSantis’ actions could ultimately harm Floridians, as Disney plans to invest over $17 billion at Walt Disney World over the next 10 years, creating an estimated 13,000 new jobs within the company and thousands of indirect jobs. DeSantis has vowed that there is more to come in his battle against Disney, but Iger remains committed to defending the company’s constitutional right to free speech while also investing in Florida’s economy.

0. “Disney chief knocks DeSantis’s attacks on company as ‘anti-Florida’” The Hill, 3 Apr. 2023,

1. “Battered by Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis stumbles again on Disney” Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 31 Mar. 2023,

2. “4 big questions about Disney and Ron DeSantis, answered” Tampa Bay Times, 4 Apr. 2023,

3. “Disney is in a land war with the state of Florida” The Verge, 4 Apr. 2023,

4. “Disney CEO Bob Iger calls DeSantis’ actions ‘anti-Florida'” News 13 Orlando, 3 Apr. 2023,

5. “DeSantis warns Disney World the fight over control isn’t over” Business Insider, 30 Mar. 2023,

6. “DeSantis’ Reedy Creek board says Disney stripped its power” Orlando Sentinel, 29 Mar. 2023,

7. “Disney CEO calls DeSantis ‘anti-business’ and ‘anti-Florida'” BBC, 3 Apr. 2023,

8. “DeSantis Calls For Investigation Into Disney World Special District After It Outsmarted His Takeover” Forbes, 3 Apr. 2023,

9. “Defiant Disney CEO has a lot to say, accusing DeSantis of punishing free speech” Miami Herald, 4 Apr. 2023,

10. “DeSantis wants state investigation into Disney power play” POLITICO, 3 Apr. 2023,

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