Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Chapek is telling employees he’s sorry for not speaking out against so-called “parental rights” legislation critics have dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, and Chapek revealed the company is suspending political donations in Florida.
“You needed me to be a stronger ally in the fight for equal rights and I let you down. I am sorry,” Chapek said in a memo obtained by the Hollywood Reporter and other media outlets.
Chapek also outlined the company’s next steps in his memo.
“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,” the memo said.
In his memo, Chapek acknowledged the negative feedback he’s heard from Disney employees expressing “their 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,” Chapek said in the memo.
Chapek’s apology comes at the end of a long week for Disney.
For the first time during an annual shareholder’s meeting Wednesday, Chapek disclosed he was opposed to the Florida bill that limits what educators can say about sexual orientation and gender identity in schools. Chapek was under fire for not speaking out sooner and taking a stronger stance against the bill in Florida, where Disney is one of the largest employers and holds considerable political clout.
Chapek said Wednesday the company was quietly lobbying behind the scenes with legislators against the bill. The Disney CEO also said he planned to meet in person with Gov. Ron DeSantis.
After Wednesday’s meeting, Disney was soon caught in between the crossfire from both DeSantis and an LGBTQ+ advocacy group.
Chapek announced a $5 million donation Wednesday to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) to support LGBTQ+ rights. But the HRC declined Disney’s money and chastised the company for not doing more to fight the legislation.
And DeSantis, a supporter of the new bill, issued a statement aimed at Disney that said, “Companies that have made a fortune catering to families should understand that parents don’t want this injected into their kid’s kindergarten classroom. Our policies will be based on the best interest of Florida citizens, not the musing of woke corporations.”