Disney CEO Bob Chapek has broken his silence about Florida’s Parental Rights in Education legislation ― also known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill ― but his remarks quickly drew renewed criticism that his company’s ostensible support of LGBTQ causes doesn’t go far enough.
Chapek on Monday released a nearly 1,000-word memo to staff in which he touted Disney’s “inspiring content,” as well as “the diverse community organizations we support.” Still, the boss of one of Florida’s largest employers said Disney will not release an official statement taking a position on the controversial legislation, in order to avoid the company becoming a “political football in any debate.”
“I want to be crystal clear: I and the entire leadership team unequivocally stand in support of our LGBTQ+ employees, their families, and their communities,” Chapek said in the memo, published in full by The Hollywood Reporter and the Los Angeles Times. “And, we are committed to creating a more inclusive company ― and world. I understand that the very need to reiterate that commitment means we still have more work to do.”
“As we have seen time and again, corporate statements do very little to change outcomes or minds,” he continued. “Instead, they are often weaponized by one side or the other to further divide and inflame ... I do not want anyone to mistake a lack of a statement for a lack of support. We all share the same goal of a more tolerant, respectful world. Where we may differ is in the tactics to get there.”
Elsewhere in the memo, Chapek touched on a Feb. 25 Orlando Sentinel report that Disney had given money to every single sponsor and co-sponsor of the Parental Rights in Education bill. The company has “contributed to both Republican and Democrat legislators who have subsequently taken positions on both sides of the legislation,” Chapek told Disney staff, adding that such donations would be reassessed moving forward.
The memo comes less than a week after Disney issued a similar statement in which the company was described as a “unifying force,” but neither endorsed nor opposed the legislation.
HuffPost reached out to Disney for additional comment but did not immediately hear back.
“You play right into the right wing’s hand when you accept that LGBTQ+ rights are a political issue,” television writer Matt Burnett tweeted. “They’re not. They’re basic human rights.”
In a dig at Disney’s checkered and often underwhelming history of queer representation on screen, YouTube filmmaker Kevin Perjurer wrote: “Disney CEO Bob Chapek to hold meeting with live action LeFou, the background gay kiss characters from Star Wars, and Captain America’s nameless gay support group friend to discuss the company’s proud legacy of platforming LGBTQ+ stories and characters.”
If passed, the Parental Rights in Education bill would limit discussions of sexuality and gender identity in some classrooms, and potentially allow parents to sue if they believe any reference to LGBTQ people or issues in school is inappropriate.