Bowing, presumably, to pressures from both inside and outside the company, Disney CEO Bob Chapek has issued a new statement on the company’s public stance toward Florida’s proposed “Don’t Say Gay” bill today.
The bill has been condemned by folks ranging from LGBTQ+ advocacy groups, to President Joe Biden himself, for its obvious intent, i.e., stopping students from being able to talk about or represent their identities, or those of family members, as part of their education, and to make it legally dangerous for teachers to encourage them to do so. (There’s also a whole aspect focused on reporting anything a kid says about their “well being” to parents, which would probably be very sweet in a world where parents weren’t often a major part of the issues affecting the well being of LGBTQ+ kids.)
Despite the outcry, Disney has been notably silent on the issue—which, given the huge impact the company has on the state’s economy, has felt significant. Chapek, who’s relatively new in his role, only made the issue worse earlier this week, when he issued a memo to employees stating that he prefers the company to advocate on progressive causes through its studio output, rather than political statements. Damage control efforts were further hampered by the Human Rights Campaign rejecting a $5 million donation from the company until it clarified its stance on the bill, and employees at the notoriously leak-proof studio (most notably from Pixar) accusing Disney of heavily censoring same-sex affection in several of its films.
All of which leads up to today, when Chapek sent an email to employees, formally apologizing to the company’s LGBTQ+ staffers for his actions, and pledging to stop all political donations in Florida while it restructures the framework of its political giving. It is, essentially, a laundry list of things that critics have been asking for, including an acknowledgement that, as one of the largest entertainment companies in America, Disney has enormous political clout it can bring to issues it ostensibly, sometimes only tacitly, seems to support.
Here’s the full text of Chapek’s letter, per Variety:
To my fellow colleagues, but especially our LGBTQ+ community,
Thank you to all who have reached out to me sharing your pain, frustration and sadness over the company’s response to the Florida “Don’t Say Gay” bill. Speaking to you, reading your messages, and meeting with you have helped me better understand how painful our silence was. It is clear that this is not just an issue about a bill in Florida, but instead yet another challenge to basic human rights. You needed me to be a stronger ally in the fight for equal rights and I let you down. I am sorry.
Our employees see the power of this great company as an opportunity to do good. I agree. Yes, we need to use our influence to promote that good by telling inclusive stories, but also by standing up for the rights of all.
Starting immediately, we are increasing our support for advocacy groups to combat similar legislation in other states. We are hard at work creating a new framework for our political giving that will ensure our advocacy better reflects our values. And today, we are pausing all political donations in the state of Florida pending this review. But, I know there is so much more work to be done. I am committed to this work and to you all, and will continue to engage with the LGBTQ+ community so that I can become a better ally. You will hear more about our progress in the coming weeks.
I truly believe we are an infinitely better and stronger company because of our LGBTQ+ community. I missed the mark in this case but am an ally you can count on—and I will be an outspoken champion for the protections, visibility, and opportunity you deserve.