Cracks in the coalition
Jenna Ellis, a former Trump campaign lawyer, called the new Florida law “vengeful” and pointed to statements from DeSantis and other Florida Republicans that she said made clear they had illegally retaliated against Disney’s “constitutionally protected speech.”
Disney CEO Bob Chapek publicly criticized Florida lawmakers for approving the measure targeting LGBTQ topics in schools and said the company would halt political donations in the state. Walt Disney Company and its holdings typically contribute millions of dollars each cycle to Florida candidates, mostly Republicans, including a $50,000 donation to DeSantis’ reelection effort.
After DeSantis signed the bill, Disney said in a statement that its goal was to get the law repealed or see it defeated in courts. That’s when DeSantis and Republicans got to work stripping Disney of its special district.
“You kick the hornet’s nest, things come up,” state Rep. Randy Fine, the Republican sponsor of the Disney legislation, said ahead of a committee vote on his bill.
Griffin’s remarks came at the Milken Institute Global Conference, a gathering of business titans and influential thought leaders, where he praised DeSantis and called him “unquestionably one of the front-runners in the Republican (presidential) primary today.”
But turning to the Disney saga, Griffin said, “I don’t appreciate Gov. DeSantis going after Disney’s tax status. It can be portrayed or feel or look like retaliation. And I believe that the people who serve our nation need to rise above these moments in time in their conduct and behavior.”
Christina Pushaw, a spokeswoman for DeSantis, declined to comment on the concerns raised by Republicans.
“The governor’s previous remarks on the Reedy Creek issue still stand,” she said.
DeSantis has said he targeted Disney because its unique status was unfair to other Florida companies that don’t operate under a special district, including neighboring theme park operators. But he has also needed to other motivations.
“Maybe this will be the wake-up call that they need to get back on track,” DeSantis said during last week’s Fox special.
‘They’re going after Mickey Mouse’
“It’s mean. It’s ugly. It’s the way — look what’s happening down in Florida,” Biden said. “They’re going after Mickey Mouse.”
“The specifics on the Reedy Creek plan have yet to be released. They will be soon,” Pushaw said. “The local residents of Orange and Osceola counties will not have to bear the burden of Disney’s debt, as the governor has stated.”
Florida Democrats have suggested DeSantis’ actions over the past two months demonstrate a Trumpian tendency to punish perceived political enemies without consideration of the consequences, and they expect that won’t sit well with voters.
“You have his own words to show this is who he is,” said Christian Ulvert, a Democratic strategist in Miami. “You disagree with him, he’ll come after you. You speak out, you’ll be silenced. You exercise your right to free speech, there will be repercussions. We have to communicate that to voters.”