- The Washington Times - Monday, June 3, 2019

Disney CEO Bob Iger said it would be “very difficult” for the company to continue to film in Georgia if the state’s newly enacted abortion law goes into effect, though the entertainment giant had no similar reservations about shooting in Jordan.

Portions of the just-released blockbuster “Aladdin” were shot in Wadi Rum, Jordan, where women who undergo abortions except in medical emergencies face up to three years in prison — in short, a law significantly more restrictive than Georgia’s fetal heartbeat bill.

“We’re shooting Aladdin in Jordan,” Will Smith, who stars as Genie, said in a Facebook post dated Nov. 8, 2017. “Special ‘Thank You’ to the Royal Family & to the people of Jordan. You all took PERFECT CARE of us. We Shall Return!”

Why is Hollywood cheering Jordan and chiding Georgia? That’s the million-dollar question for conservatives, who blame reflexive political correctness and virtue signaling for the entertainment industry’s glaring double standard.

Bob Iger acts like he’s spent too much time in Fantasyland, because his position here is downright goofy,” said Robert Kuykendall, a spokesman for the conservative corporate watchdog 2ndVote. “Hollywood deals in fiction, and Iger is reading from the left’s pro-abortion script, not a logical narrative.”



“Aladdin” represents just the tip of the pyramid. The 2017 Disney movie “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” had scenes shot in Bolivia, Croatia and Ireland, as flagged on Twitter by Logan Dobson, a managing director of the Republican communications and marketing firm Targeted Victory.

Bolivia bans most abortions; Croatia prohibits the procedure in most cases after 10 weeks of gestation, and Ireland’s near total ban wasn’t repealed until May 2018 — after “The Last Jedi” was shot.

Then there is Netflix, which raised the possibility last week of leaving Georgia over the fetal heartbeat bill signed May 7 by Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, even though the entertainment company announced plans May 27 to film an original series, “Paranormal,” in Egypt.

Abortion is illegal in Egypt, with exceptions for saving the life of the pregnant woman or “fatal foetal abnormality,” according to the pro-choice international advocacy group Women on Waves.

Even so, “Paranormal” comes as Netflix’s third production foray into the Middle East: The shows “Jinn,” scheduled for release June 13, and “Al Rawabi School for Girls” were also filmed in Jordan as part of what the company described as its “dedication to investment in Middle Eastern Arabic content.”

“When you look at Disney and Netflix and where they’re filming — Croatia, Bolivia, Jordan, Egypt — it’s a little bit surprising that this would be the bridge they would choose to take a stand on,” said Catherine Glenn Foster, president and CEO of Americans United for Life. “It’s political in all the worst senses.”

Disney and Netflix did not return requests for comment Monday about their productions in countries where abortion is illegal, and Mr. Kemp’s office declined to comment on the contrast.

Hollywood erupted after Mr. Kemp signed the legislation, which would ban most abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, or about six weeks of gestation, prompting threats to abandon the state, which has become a production hub thanks to generous tax breaks.

So far, however, major studios such as Disney, Netflix, NBCUniversal, WarnerMedia and Viacom have told media outlets that they will pull out only if the law goes into effect — which may never happen.

“We fully expect that the heartbeat bills and similar laws in various states will face serious legal challenges and will not go into effect while the process proceeds in court,” NBCUniversal said in a statement. “If any of these laws are upheld, it would strongly impact our decision-making on where we produce our content in the future.”

AMC Networks, which is shooting its 10th season of “The Walking Dead” in Atlanta, told Deadline, “If this highly restrictive legislation goes into effect, we will reevaluate our activity in Georgia.”

The Georgia bill is scheduled to kick in Jan. 1, but even its supporters expect it to be stayed immediately by a judge pending a court battle. A dozen red states have enacted laws this year curtailing abortion access as legislators seek to bring an abortion challenge before the Supreme Court’s 5-4 conservative majority.

“We have many women working on productions in Georgia, whose rights, along with millions of others, will be severely restricted by this law,” Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos said in a statement on Variety.

“Given the legislation has not yet been implemented, we’ll continue to film there, while also supporting partners and artists who choose not to,” he said. “Should it ever come into effect, we’d rethink our entire investment in Georgia.”

Mr. Iger’s comments were particularly stunning to conservatives, given Disney’s previous willingness to film in abortion-unfriendly countries as well as the company’s brand as a leader in family-friendly, child-oriented content.

“Disney shareholders should be concerned that Iger is supporting the abortion industry’s efforts to destroy the next generations of consumers,” Mr. Kuykendall said. “Will he move Disney’s resort properties when Florida passes a heartbeat bill? Iger’s hypocrisy here is cartoonish, and it’s blatant political posturing.”

Florida Republicans introduced several pro-life bills this year, including a fetal heartbeat measure, but none was approved before the legislative session ended May 4.

The Disney films “Black Panther” and “Avengers: Endgame” were filmed in Georgia — a total of 455 productions were shot there in 2018 — but Mr. Iger told Reuters that it if the fetal heartbeat law is implemented, it would be “very difficult to do so.”

“I rather doubt we will,” Mr. Iger said in the May 29 interview. “I think many people who work for us will not want to work there, and we will have to heed their wishes in that regard. Right now we are watching it very carefully.”

Conservative pundit Ben Shapiro blasted such assurances as “the purest form of virtue signaling. They know it’s unlikely that GA’s bill is implemented, so there’s no cost to saying this,” while Ms. Foster accused the companies of trying to “make sure they stay on good terms with their cultural and political allies.”

She said she hoped the entertainment titans would “take a good, honest look at themselves and say, OK, let’s be consistent.”

“Because especially when you look at the younger generation — they care about things like [showing] authenticity, transparency and consistency,” Ms. Foster said. “And that’s exactly what we’re seeing companies like Disney and Netflix fail to do.”

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