Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has been entangled in a very public feud with Disney for the better part of the last year. Needless to say, the ongoing tensions have become a flashpoint in the 2024 presidential race. Former President Donald Trump has criticized the governor’s actions, as have others in the crowded Republican field. The criticism is that the Gov. DeSantis’ policies are anti-business and anti-free speech.
On Friday’s show, Megyn was joined by Dave Rubin, host of The Rubin Report, to discuss what Gov. DeSantis’ fight with Disney will mean for his presidential campaign and for the relationship between government and business in general. While Rubin has been a staunch defender of the Florida governor, Megyn voiced her concerns about the pitfalls of government overreach in what ended up being a fiery debate on the topic.
DeSantis vs. Disney: How We Got Here
The feud between Florida’s Republican governor and one of the nation’s biggest and most influential corporations has been ongoing for over a year now. The feud began in March 2022 when Disney workers protested Gov. DeSantis’ Florida’s Parent Rights in Education Act, which many nicknamed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
Between its theme park and cruise ship businesses, Disney employs some 80,000 people in the Sunshine State. Initially, then-Disney CEO Bob Chapek chose to stay quiet on the GOP-backed policy, but he faced major backlash for doing so and ultimately declared that the company opposes the legislation. This proved to be the start of what has turned into an ongoing legal saga between Disney and the state of Florida – specifically, Gov. DeSantis, who now has his sights set on the White House.
For the past half century, Disney has been in the unique position of essentially self-governing the area occupied by its Walt Disney World empire. In May 1967, the Reedy Creek Improvement District was carved out under Florida state law to be a special purpose district not far from Orlando. This allowed the district to provide its own municipal services, including power, water, roads, and firefighting. As a result, Disney did not have to pay taxes for services benefitting the general public.
Today, the Reedy Creek Improvement District encompasses some 25,000 acres in Orange and Osceola counties and features four theme parks, two water parks, one sports complex, 175 lane miles of roadway, 67 miles of waterway, and the cities of Bay Lake and Lake Buena Vista. Recently, Gov. DeSantis has sought out to dissolve the Reedy Creek pact. While its board used to be made up of landowners in the district who had ties to Disney, the new oversight committee will be made up of five members appointed by the governor.
In early April, Disney CEO Bob Iger stated that Gov. DeSantis’ new bill is “not just anti-Florida, but anti-business,” adding that “a company has a right to freedom of speech just like individuals do.” The entertainment giant went on to file a lawsuit against Gov. DeSantis through the federal court in Tallahassee, claiming that the governor is threatening billions of dollars in business as retaliation for the company speaking out against his policies. For his part, Gov. DeSantis said Iger and Disney are just “upset that they are actually having to live by the same rules as everybody else.”
Why Dave Rubin Supports Gov. DeSantis’ Approach
Rubin is nothing if not a free speech advocate, but he is not persuaded by Disney’s defense that Gov. DeSantis is stifling the First Amendment with his actions against the company. “I am completely fine with the government using power when it is appropriate to be used,” he said. In the case of Disney, Rubin said it was operating under “special laws” and “tax emotions” that were not extended to similar businesses. “Why should Disney have special exemptions and tax benefits that, say, SeaWorld and Universal Studios – which are basically in the same business also in Orlando – don’t have,” he asked. “So, all he did was… [get] rid of crony capitalism and give us an even playing field that we all want.”
Megyn emphasized that she is by no means a fan of Disney, but she also does not want to see the government retaliating against businesses that disagree with it. “You would not be singing this tune if it were Citibank doing this to conservatives who objected to some woke agenda inside of the bank,” she said. Rubin did not disagree, but he also noted a caveat. “The difference would be if they had special privileges,” he retorted. “I don’t want any corporation to have any special privileges, right? Like my companies don’t deserve special privileges.”
While Megyn acknowledged, as Rubin suggested, that this is a situation in which Disney is losing privileges that were not afforded to other companies, she still does not agree with Gov. DeSantis’ actions. “The fact that it’s lowering them from special status back down to normal status does not… change the fact that it is a punishment being exacted on the company by a governor, by somebody who we elected,” she explained. “It’s a slippery slope. You don’t think this is not going to happen by Democratic governors now?”
Rubin understood Megyn’s point about political revenge, but he doesn’t see this situation in that way. “Philosophically, I completely understand what you’re saying – you want to make sure that government is not weaponized,” Rubin said. “If [Gov. DeSantis] started saying, ‘Okay, we’re going to throw extra taxes or extra regulations on Disney,’ that would be a true weaponization of government.” Instead, Rubin sees these moves more as a rollback. “If anything, he took some of the weaponization away because you could absolutely argue that the weaponization of government was being used against Universal and SeaWorld because they have stricter guidelines to play by,” he added.
Ultimately, he said he would support such actions regardless of who was in power. “I would be okay if there are situations in Democrat-run states where certain corporations have special privileges and those companies got into fights with those Democrats, regardless of what the fight was about,” he concluded. “If the end result is what we now have in Florida – which will be an even playing field for Disney – I wouldn’t be okay with it.”
Why Megyn Is Standing Up for Disney
To be clear, Megyn said she is not a fan of the role Disney has played in the culture wars that are currently sowing the seeds of division in this country. “I love seeing the people I hate punched in the face. I really do,” she shared. “I hate what they’re doing to my children and everybody else’s.”
But this situation, in her view, is bigger than Disney. “However, I care more about America and our fundamental ideals – like the First Amendment, like government shouldn’t be infringing on the free speech of individuals or corporations. And I still happen to believe that a corporation has the right to feel the way it feels about legislation – whether it’s a Republican or a Democrat – and deserves not to be punished for said beliefs by a politician.”
While Megyn is happy to see Disney suffer the consequences of its increasingly woke ideology, she does not believe this is the way to ‘punish’ them. “As a lawyer and as a citizen, this is not the way to do it,” she said. “Go out there and convince people to boycott Disney… let the people have their say, let the people exact the punishment the way they did with Bud Light, but government should stay the hell out of it.” The power, she said, should rest with the people, not Gov. DeSantis, or President Joe Biden, or any other politician.
While Gov. DeSantis may have Disney on the ropes now, Megyn believes those on the right will lose in the end. “I see massive dangers in governments punishing corporations for their privately held views… and if we go down that road, guess who’s going to lose,” she asked. “We are because the Democrats control virtually all the corporations, they have way bigger hold on them than our side – the side of reason – does, so we’re going down a slippery slope there.”
You can check out Megyn’s full interview with Rubin by tuning in to episode 559 on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you like to listen. And don’t forget that you can catch The Megyn Kelly Show live on SiriusXM’s Triumph (channel 111) weekdays from 12pm to 2pm ET.