For-profit

The Walt Disney Company

Website:

https://www.disney.com/

Location:

Burbank, California

Formation:

1923

CEO:

Bob Chapek

Type:

For-profit media conglomerate

The Walt Disney Company is a media and entertainment conglomerate based in Burbank, California. As of March 2022, the company has more than 200,000 employees and a market capitalization of more than $250 billion. [1]

Leadership

Bob Iger

Bob Iger worked as president and CEO of Disney from 2005-2020. Iger was a long-time registered Democrat, though he became an Independent in 2016. [2] In his memoir, Iger described his political activity while leading Disney, including advising members of the Obama administration, members of Congress, pollsters, and various campaign staffs. Iger considered running for president in 2020 as a Democrat and would have run on a left-of-center platform promoting health care access, affordable housing, and combatting income inequality. However, he expressed reservations about the Democratic Party’s policies toward businesses: “I was skeptical of the Democratic Party’s willingness and ability to support a successful business person.” [3]

In 2016, Iger joined President Donald Trump’s business advisory council despite opposition from many within and outside Disney. Iger had previously voiced support for some of President Trump’s tax policies, though he disagreed with the president’s immigration policies. Iger resigned from the position in June 2017 along with Tesla CEO Elon Musk in response to then-President Trump’s decision to pull the United States out of the Paris Climate Accords. [4]

After the resignation, Iger became a target of President Trump. In September 2017, ESPN (a subsidiary of Disney) anchor Jemele Hill called Trump a “white supremacist,” causing the president to personally demand that Iger fire Hill, a demand Iger refused. [5] The following year, Trump repeatedly demanded apologies from Iger for his coverage on ABC, another Disney subsidiary. [6]

Bob Chapek

Bob Chapek became president and CEO of Disney in 2020. In March 2022, CNN described the transition as “a shift from an outspoken, famous CEO with political ambitions, to a largely unfamiliar name whose politics remain a mystery.” When the Florida legislature considered a bill that would restrict the discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in schools, Chapek took an explicitly neutral stance, warning that corporate statements are “often weaponized by one side or the other to further divide and inflame.” [7]

After criticism from LGBT interest groups and other social liberals, Chapek publicly opposed the bill but only after its passage. Disney later announced that it was ceasing all political donations to candidates in Florida. Chapek also stated that Disney was making a $5 million donation to the Human Rights Campaign, but the organization said it would refuse the donation until Disney took meaningful action to oppose the legislation. [8] [9]

In March 2022, Chapek announced that Disney would cease theatrical release of its films in Russia in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. [10]

Campaign Contributions

In the 2020 election cycle, Disney employees donated more than $20 million to political candidates and PACs. While the vast majority of individual donations went to Democrats, the single largest recipient was the right-of-center America First Action Committee, which received $10 million from Isaac Perlmutter, the chairman and former CEO of Marvel Entertainment, a Disney subsidiary. Perlmutter also gave more than $667,000 to the Republican National Committee. [11] [12]

The Walt Disney Co. PAC has spent about $250,000 to $650,000 each election cycle from 2000 to 2020. Spending has declined since 2016, reaching $251,000 in the 2020 cycle. Donations are roughly evenly split between Democratic and Republican candidates and PACs. In the 2020 election cycle, 60% of donations went to Democrats, with Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) being the largest recipient. [13]

After the January 6 riot at the Capitol by supporters of President Donald Trump, Disney announced that it would cease all financial contributions to politicians and political candidates who objected to the certification of the Electoral College results in the 2020 presidential election. [14]

Controversies

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Disney publishes an annual Environmental, Social, and Governance report that recounts its efforts to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion. The company’s “Workforce Diversity Dashboard” tracks the race, ethnicity, and gender of every employee and executive in the company. [15]

Gina Carano Firing

In February 2021, Disney announced the termination of Gina Carano, an actress on the Disney show “Mandalorian,” and a former mixed-martial-arts fighter. The firing was prompted by social media backlash against Carano for a Facebook post that analogized the suppression of conservative views in the American media to the oppression of Jews in Nazi Germany. Critics of Disney proclaimed Carano to be a victim of left-wing “cancel culture.” [16]

Florida Education Bill

On March 8, 2022, the Florida legislature passed a bill that restricted instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity in K-3 classrooms. Disney received backlash from LGBT interest groups and Democrats over its lack of vocal opposition for the bill. Disney had previously given $300,000 to candidates and PACs which support the bill, including $50,000 to Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL). [17]

In mid-March, in protest, a group of Disney employees known as “Disney Do Better Walkout” announced a week of “break” walkouts for fifteen minutes per day, followed by full-day walk outs the following week. [18]

On March 22, the Florida Democratic Party announced that it had postponed its scheduled leadership conference, which was to be held at Disney World. The postponement was made due to pressure from the LGBTQ+ caucus within the party. [19]

Chapek publicly opposed the bill but only after its passage. Disney later announced that it was ceasing all political donations to candidates in Florida. Chapek also stated that Disney was making a $5 million donation to the Human Rights Campaign, but the organization said it would refuse the donation until Disney took meaningful action to oppose the bill. [20] [21]

A New York Times op-ed from Peter Coy suggested that Disney’s leadership under Chapek tries to take a neutral stance to please all sides of the political spectrum, both in the United States and globally, for the sake of its profits, but its progressive employees continually force the leadership to engage in politics. [22]

On March 22, a group of conservative Disney employees published an open letter anonymously out of fear of retaliation expressing concerns about hostility at Disney against right-leaning employees, especially given recent attempts by Disney’s leadership to placate left-leaning employees angered by the company’s reaction to the Florida bill. The employees wrote, “The Walt Disney Company has come to be an increasingly uncomfortable place to work for those of us whose political and religious views are not explicitly progressive. We watch quietly as our beliefs come under attack from our own employer, and we frequently see those who share our opinions condemned as villains by our own leadership.” The employees asked for Disney’s leadership to embrace a politically neutral stance. [23]

Governor DeSantis publicly attacked Disney in response to its condemnation of the education bill: “In Florida, our policies got to be based on the best interest of Florida citizens, not on the musing of woke corporations.” [24]

On March 22, the Florida legislature, with support from DeSantis, passed the Stop WOKE Act, a bill that limits what companies can say to their employees regarding racial issues, especially critical race theory. This bill is meant to target Disney in response to the company’s cessation of political contributions in the state. Governor DeSantis called the bill a “stand against the state-sanctioned racism.” [25]

Lobbying

From 1998-2021, Disney spent at least $2.4 million per year on lobbying, reaching a height of almost $6 million in 2008. [26]

References

  1. “Walt Disney.” Forbes. Accessed March 24, 2022. https://www.forbes.com/companies/walt-disney/?sh=654909a95730. ^
  2. Johnson, Ted. “Bob Iger Outlines What His Message Would Be If He Ran For President.” Deadline. September 25, 2019. Accessed March 24, 2022. https://deadline.com/2019/09/bob-iger-disney-president-politics-1202744699/. ^
  3. [1] Johnson, Ted. “Bob Iger Outlines What His Message Would Be If He Ran For President.” Deadline. September 25, 2019. Accessed March 24, 2022. https://deadline.com/2019/09/bob-iger-disney-president-politics-1202744699/. ^
  4. Horowitz, Julia. “Disney CEO Bob Iger quits Trump advisory team as ‘matter of principle.’” CNN. June 2, 2017. Accessed March 24, 2022. https://money.cnn.com/2017/06/01/media/disney-ceo-bob-iger-trump-advisory-board/index.html ^
  5. Pallotta, Frank. “Disney shows off its post-Iger politics.” CNN. March 9, 2022. Accessed March 24, 2022. https://www.cnn.com/2022/03/09/media/disney-florida-bill-chapek-iger/index.html. ^
  6. Estepa, Jessica. “President Trump keeps up attack on Disney’s Bob Iger: ‘Where is my call of apology?.’” May 31, 2018. Accessed March 24, 2022. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/onpolitics/2018/05/31/donald-trump-again-demands-apology-disney-ceo-bob-iger/658766002/. ^
  7. Pallotta, Frank. “Disney shows off its post-Iger politics.” CNN. March 9, 2022. Accessed March 24, 2022. https://www.cnn.com/2022/03/09/media/disney-florida-bill-chapek-iger/index.html. ^
  8. Scribner, Herb. “Why Disney is stopping all political donations in Florida.” Deseret News. March 14, 2022. Accessed March 24, 2022. https://www.deseret.com/coronavirus/2022/3/14/22976795/disney-political-donations-florida. ^
  9. Migdon, Brooke. “Disney employees stage walkouts over ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill.” Changing America. March 16, 2022. Accessed March 24, 2022. https://thehill.com/changing-america/respect/equality/598453-disney-employees-stage-walkouts-over-dont-say-gay-bill. ^
  10. Pallotta, Frank. “Disney shows off its post-Iger politics.” CNN. March 9, 2022. Accessed March 24, 2022. https://www.cnn.com/2022/03/09/media/disney-florida-bill-chapek-iger/index.html. ^
  11. “Donors search: PERLMUTTER, ISSAC.” Open Secrets. Accessed March 24, 2022. https://www.opensecrets.org/search?q=PERLMUTTER%2C+ISAAC&type=donors. ^
  12. “Walt Disney Co.” Open Secrets. Accessed March 24, 2022. https://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/walt-disney-co/summary?id=d000000128. ^
  13.  “PAC Profile: Walt Disney Co.” Open Secrets. Accessed March 24, 2022. https://www.opensecrets.org/party-totals-section. ^
  14. Moyer, Matthew. “Walt Disney Co. stops political donations to members of Congress who objected to presidential election results.” Orlando Weekly. January 13, 2021. Accessed March 24, 2022. https://www.orlandoweekly.com/orlando/walt-disney-co-ceases-political-contributions-for-members-of-congress-who-objected-to-presidential-election-results/Content?oid=28626258. ^
  15. [1] “2021 Corporate Social Responsibility Report.” Disney. Accessed March 24, 2022. https://impact.disney.com/app/uploads/2022/02/2021-CSR-Report.pdf. ^
  16. Ennis, Dawn. “Gina Curano Fired: ‘Cancel Culture’ Victim Or Is This Just Jedi Karma.” Forbes. February 11, 2021. Accessed March 24, 2022. https://www.forbes.com/sites/dawnstaceyennis/2021/02/11/gina-carano-fired-cancel-culture-victim-or-perpetrator/?sh=4558d8906505 ^
  17. Scribner, Herb. “Why Disney is stopping all political donations in Florida.” Deseret News. March 14, 2022. Accessed March 24, 2022. https://www.deseret.com/coronavirus/2022/3/14/22976795/disney-political-donations-florida. ^
  18. Migdon, Brooke. “Disney employees stage walkouts over ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill.” Changing America. March 16, 2022. Accessed March 24, 2022. https://thehill.com/changing-america/respect/equality/598453-disney-employees-stage-walkouts-over-dont-say-gay-bill. ^
  19. Figueroa IV, Daniel. “Florida Democrats pull conference from Disney World in light of ‘parental rights’ bill pushback.” Florida Politics. March 23, 2022. Accessed March 24, 2022. https://floridapolitics.com/archives/510728-florida-democrats-pull-conference-from-disney-world-in-light-of-dont-say-gay-pushback/. ^
  20. [1] Scribner, Herb. “Why Disney is stopping all political donations in Florida.” Deseret News. March 14, 2022. Accessed March 24, 2022. https://www.deseret.com/coronavirus/2022/3/14/22976795/disney-political-donations-florida. ^
  21. Migdon, Brooke. “Disney employees stage walkouts over ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill.” Changing America. March 16, 2022. Accessed March 24, 2022. https://thehill.com/changing-america/respect/equality/598453-disney-employees-stage-walkouts-over-dont-say-gay-bill. ^
  22. Coy, Peter. “Disney Can’t Hide From Politics.” New York Times. March 11, 2022. Accessed March 24, 2022. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/11/opinion/disney-florida-lgbtq.html ^
  23. “Disney Employees’ Open Letter in Favor of a Politically Neutral Disney.” Google Docs. Accessed March 24, 2022. https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdueiXmPfww_2iQttbvfxTIcC7i-JOq5awsHNI2Q6XW46UT7Q/viewform. ^
  24. Chasmar, Jessica; Laco, Kelly. “DeSantis slams ‘woke’ Disney after CEO condemns parents’ rights bill.” Fox News. March 10, 2020. Accessed March 24, 2022. https://www.foxnews.com/politics/desantis-woke-disney-ceo-parents-rights-bill. ^
  25. Lloyd, Spencer. “Florida Passes New ‘Stop WOKE’ Act Which Requires Disney and Other Private Companies to Alter Diversity Training.” WDW News Today. March 22, 2022. Accessed March 24, 2022. https://wdwnt.com/2022/03/florida-passes-new-stop-woke-act-which-requires-disney-and-other-private-companies-to-alter-diversity-training/. ^
  26. “Walt Disney Co.” Open Secrets. Accessed March 24, 2022. https://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/walt-disney-co/summary?id=d000000128. ^
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