Walt Disney World’s “masterclass” in putting Florida’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, “back in his place” by finding a loophole to keep control of its land was praised by California’s Democratic governor, Gavin Newsom.
Newsom told Insider on Saturday, “I assume there’s a new sheriff in town,” an obvious allusion to a phrase DeSantis made when he created a new board to manage Disney’s district. “It’s Mickey Mouse, back on top,” Newsom added.
The Walt Disney Studios may have its headquarters in Burbank, California, but the economic and cultural influence of Disney World in Florida is substantial. This week, it was reported that a statute granting the governor of Florida the authority to remove the board members running Disney World is likely to be ineffective.
DeSantis has warned, “You ain’t seen nothing yet,” and the state’s attorney general has asked for texts and emails relating to Disney’s maneuver with former board members, so this fight is far from done. The current board is also consulting with legal counsel.
Disney’s mediated arrangement “may have significant legal infirmities that would render the contracts void as a matter of law.” according to DeSantis’s spokeswoman Taryn Fenske. In a wide-ranging interview with Insider, Newsom said he was sure DeSantis would retaliate and that the governor is “incapable of not.”
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However, Newsom argued that the Disney maneuver hurt the governor politically at a time when he appears to be slipping in the polls when pitted against a hypothetical opponent for the Republican nomination for president in 2024.
The national attention on DeSantis is an “over-hype,” according to Newsom, and “It’s a bit of a yellow flag, if not a red flag, for DeSantis and a very perilous time for him politically, too because he’s struggling right now.” On Saturday night, DeSantis made an appearance in the Big Apple.
DeSantis has been on a book tour, which many see as a test run for a possible presidential candidacy in 2024. His conflict with Disney is a common topic of discussion during this tour. The New York area of Long Island is his next destination.
After Disney’s leadership stated that they would work to repeal the Parental Rights in Education Act, which Democrats and LGBTQ-rights groups have dubbed “Don’t Say Gay“ because it restricts classroom instruction about gender identity and sexual orientation, Florida’s governor made an example out of the company.
In response, DeSantis attacked Disney’s unique tax status, which effectively gives the company control over its own government and is not shared with any other theme parks. DeSantis has said that Disney is entitled to its opinion on the law, but “they are not free to force all of us to subsidize their activism,”
When it became clear that dissolving Disney’s special district could lead to greater taxes for county residents, he and the Republican-controlled legislature attempted again this year and successfully passed a bill to sub-out the governing board. Last week, it became clear that Disney had previously arranged an agreement that effectively disarmed the new board.
Newsom said that DeSantis’ battle with Disney was an attempt to gain publicity, and that his “arrogance” and “semi-authoritarian inclination” were on display in his “overreach” policies. The Disney company, he claimed, was fighting back against a “attack on their private free expression as a corporate citizen” on the part of DeSantis.
“It’s not just folks in the classroom who have to worry about what they say, but in the boardrooms, they’re trying to ban not just books, but speech,” Newsom said, alluding to the removal of certain books from Florida school libraries, a move that DeSantis has defended by airing some of the content from those books on television.
When asked about Newsom’s recent comments in an interview, the governor’s staff cited statements made by DeSantis. On Thursday, while on a book tour in Georgia, DeSantis spoke on the Parental Rights law, saying, “My job is to stand up for the children of my state.”
To “provide space to the individual citizen to be able to participate in society to be able to speak his or her thoughts,” as the governor put it, “awake” corporate practices require state government intervention.
Right-wing hero DeSantis and left-wing darling Newsom have regularly taken potshots at each other over their differing stances on crime, COVID-19, abortion, and LGBTQ rights. Newsom demanded that Disney scrap its intention to move 2,000 workers from California to Florida a year ago on account of that state’s Parental Rights statute.
At the beachside Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa, where the Democratic Governors Association was holding their annual conference, Newsom met with Insider. Newsom oversees policies for the DGA. The Palm Beach area is a magnet for political events on both sides of the aisle due to its abundance of high-dollar donors, which is why Democratic governors are so quick to criticize DeSantis’ policies in Florida. DeSantis made fun of this phenomenon last month.
Insider reports that Newsom stated his motivation for visiting Florida was to “to remind people about how bad the elected officials are.” The next red states he plans to visit are Arkansas, Mississippi, and Alabama to spread the word about his new political outfit, the Campaign for Democracy, which is opposed to loosened gun regulations, abortion restrictions, and constraints on LGBTQ rights.
The DGA meeting took place fewer than seven miles south of Mar-a-Lago, former president Donald Trump’s private resort. Even though Trump was indicted on Thursday, Newsom said he would wait to make any statements until he had a chance to read the sealed indictment.
Newsom was generally positive about Trump, thanking him for being approachable and helping California through the COVID-19 epidemic. Newsom claimed Trump would “clean his clock” over DeSantis in a 2024 race for the GOP candidacy.
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