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Disney Now Says It Will 'Reassess' Donations After Backlash

Disney CEO Bob Chapek
Jeff Gritchen/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images

The company has been criticized for donating to politicians behind Florida's notorious legislation that is expected to become law in the coming days.

As Florida's "don't say gay" bill -- which would ban discussion of LGBTQ+ topics in primary grades -- rapidly moves closer to becoming law, Disney has come under increasing scrutiny for its history of donating to the politicians behind the bill and its apparent intention to continue doing so.

Under the mounting pressure, Disney CEO Bob Chapek affirmed to employees today that the company "unequivocally" stands with its LGBTQ+ workers and said there's more Disney needs to do in that regard. At the same time, Chapek made his case for why the company isn't speaking out more in a memo sent to Disney staff.

"On Friday, I met with a small group of Disney LGBTQ+ leaders to discuss controversial legislation pending in Florida that would impact their communities," Chapek wrote. "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. 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."

Chapek went on to explain that the reason Disney hasn't made a public statement is that he feels they do "very little to change outcomes or minds. Instead, they are often weaponized by one side or the other to further divide and inflame. Simply put, they can be counterproductive and undermine more effective ways to achieve change."

While Chapek addressed previous donations in the memo, he made no specific promises as to how this aspect of Disney's operation might change in the future, only that they are being reassessed. "Geoff Morrell, our new Chief Corporate Affairs Officer, will be reassessing our advocacy strategies around the world -- including political giving -- as he begins to integrate the communications, public policy, government relations, and CSR teams," Chapek wrote.

This news comes on the heels of Disney's statement last week in response to the outcry over the company's implicit support of the law. "We understand how important this issue is to our LGBTQ+ employees and many others," the company said. "For nearly a century, Disney has been a unifying force that brings people together. We are determined that it remains a place where everyone is treated with dignity and respect. The biggest impact we can have in creating a more inclusive world is through the inspiring content we produce, the welcoming culture we create here, and the diverse community organizations we support, including those representing the LGBTQ+ community."

This statement understandably left many unsatisfied, including film producer Abigail Disney, the great-niece of company founder Walt Disney, who tweeted last week, "I could not be more unhappy with their political activities, both in terms of whom they fund and how they lobby. I would strongly support a law to require all corporations to reveal ALL of their funding and lobbying moves."

Writer Benjamin Siemon also posted an impassioned call imploring Disney to fully denounce the bill and stop donations to the politicians supporting it. To do otherwise, he explained, would be to "essentially [say] that this bill is OK."

"This bill is going to hurt kids and that's why I'm asking Disney to please take a position on the 'Don't Say Gay' bill," Siemon said. "Say that it's wrong and say that you're going to stop donating to the politicians who vote for it. Disney, please say gay."

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