Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis swung back Tuesday at Disney‘s pledge to fight the state’s newly signed Parental Bill of Rights with a swipe at the entertainment giant’s relationship with China.
The Republican governor accused Disney of skewed priorities after the company ripped his decision Monday to sign legislation barring schools from teaching about gender identity and sexuality in grades K-3, dubbed by LGBTQ advocates as the “don’t say gay” bill.
“People asked me kind of about their posture on the bill, and I said, you know what? If we would have put in the bill that you were not allowed to have curriculum that discussed the oppression of the Uyghurs in China, Disney would have endorsed that in a second,” Mr. DeSantis said at a press conference.
He said “that’s the hypocrisy of this, and we’re going to make sure we’re fighting back when people are threatening our parents and threatening our kids.”
Mr. DeSantis wasn’t alone in bringing up China. Disney has been widely criticized for filming scenes in its 2020 movie “Mulan” in Xinjiang, site of China’s Uyghur internment camps, where more than 1 million members of the Muslim minority are believed to be held.
“The @WaltDisneyCo filmed Mulan near #Uighur genocide camps & then thanked the people who run those camps in the credits,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican, in a Tuesday tweet. “But they are outraged that Florida schools will not be indoctrinating 5-year olds on ‘gender identity’.”
Canary CEO Dan K. Eberhart tweeted: “When Disney stops quite literally praising the people responsible for China‘s ongoing genocide of Uighur Muslims, then they might have any business trying to lecture us on values in America.”
Mr. DeSantis also said state House Speaker Chris Sprowls told him that Disney never contacted him about the bill as it was moving through the legislature, and that the company’s vow to seek a repeal “crossed the line.”
“This state is governed by the interests of the people of the state of Florida. It is not based on the demands of California corporate executives,” said the governor. “They do not run this state, they do not control this state.”
In a Monday statement, Disney, which runs one of the world’s biggest entertainment centers around its Walt Disney World theme park near Orlando, said that Florida House Bill 1557 “should never have been passed and should never have been signed into law.”
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“Our goal as a company is for this law to be repealed by the legislature or struck down in the courts, and we remain committed to supporting the national and state organizations working to achieve that,” Disney said. “We are dedicated to standing up for the rights and safety of LGBTQ+ members of the Disney family, as well as the LGBTQ+ community in Florida and across the country.”
The bill “prohibits classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through 3rd grade and prohibits instruction that is not age appropriate for students,” said the governor’s office in a Monday press release.
The measure also requires “school districts to adopt procedures for notifying parents if there is a change in services from the school regarding a child’s mental, emotional or physical health or well-being,” including changes adopted at school to the child’s name or gender identity.
Disney CFO Christine McCarthy addressed the Uyghur issue at a September 2020 conference, saying that “Mulan” was mostly not shot in China, and that it was common practice to acknowledge the nations where movies are filmed in the closing credits.
“The real facts are that ‘Mulan’ was primarily shot — almost in entirety — in New Zealand,” she said, as reported by Deadline. “In an effort to accurately depict some of the unique landscape and geography of the country of China for this period drama, we filmed scenery in 20 different locations in China. It’s common knowledge that, in order to film in China, you have to be granted permission. That permission comes from the central government.”