ORLANDO, Fla. — It's been just over a week since longtime Disney CEO Bob Iger has been back at the helm, and he's reiterating his company's support of LGBTQ+ acceptance.
Iger used the first employee town hall meeting since his return to address a number of issues the entertainment giant faced during his brief two-year retirement — including the fallout over Florida's "Parental Rights in Education Act," called "Don't Say Gay" by critics.
The law bars educators from teaching about sexual orientation or gender identity to students in kindergarten through third grade. School districts may opt to ban those topics beyond third grade if leaders deem them not to be age or developmentally appropriate.
“This company has been telling stories for 100 years, and those stories have had a meaningful, positive impact on the world, and one of the reasons they have had a meaningful, positive impact is because one of the core values of our storytelling is inclusion and acceptance and tolerance, and we can’t lose that,” Iger said, according to reports CNBC obtained from employees.
Disney faced backlash from fans and employees alike for being slow to take a stance while Florida lawmakers passed the "Parental Rights" HB 1557.
Iger, who was not leading the company at the time, denounced the bill on Twitter.
The public outrage did lead then-CEO Bob Chapek to publicly speak out against the Florida legislation on a March shareholder's call.
"While we've been strong supporters of the [LGBTQ] community for decades, I know that many are upset that we did not speak out against the bill,” said Chapek during his opening statements. “We were opposed to the bill from the outset, but we chose not to take a public position on it because we thought we could be more effective working behind the scenes, engaging directly with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.”
When Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the divisive bill into law on March 28, Disney was quick to issue a statement calling for the legislation to be struck down or repealed.
The move seemed to add fuel to the fire of an ongoing feud between Disney and DeSantis in which the governor moved to dissolve Disney’s Reedy Creek Improvement District, a special taxing district that was allowed to "act the same authority and responsibility as a county government."
The move, which could put millions of dollars of debt on local taxpayers and complicate the process for theme park expansion projects, is uncharted territory for Disney. Iger reportedly told employees that he's still getting up to speed on the matter.
“I was sorry to see us dragged into that battle, and I have no idea exactly what its ramifications are,” he told employees, according to CNBC.
As for the future, Iger said he will maintain Chapek's hiring freeze while working on moves that align with Disney's core values, multiple outlets reported.
"...how we actually change the world through the good must continue. We’re not going to make everyone happy all the time, and we’re not [going to] try to. We’re certainly not going to lessen our core values in order to make everyone happy all the time," the CEO said, according to Variety.