Disney CEO says company made a MISTAKE by not publicly opposing Florida bill

Embattled Disney CEO Bob Chapek told employees during a virtual town hall Monday that he regretted not taking a public stance against Florida’s controversial ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill.

Chapek, who is already facing leadership problems amid a rift with his predecessor, Bob Iger, and discontent from employees who remain loyal to Iger thanks to his glittering tenure at the helm of the entertainment giant, said that Disney made a mistake by not publicly decrying the bill.  

‘I and the leadership team are determined to use this moment as a catalyst for more meaningful and lasting change,’ Chapek, 61, said during a rushed virtual town hall meeting. 

The so-called ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, which bans the teaching of lessons on sexuality, gender identity and sexual orientation from kindergarten up to third grade, has led to planned walkouts by Disney employees condemning the company’s silence over the issue.  

Chapek also pledged to fiercely oppose Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s attempt to investigate parents of children undergoing gender-transitioning procedures for child abuse, The Wall Street Journal reported. 

Disney CEO Bob Chapek told employees during a virtual town hall that he regretted not taking a public stance against Florida’s controversial ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill. Above, Chapek pictured in June 2021

The so-called 'Don't Say Gay' bill has led to planned walkouts by Disney employees condemning the company's silence over the issue

The so-called ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill has led to planned walkouts by Disney employees condemning the company’s silence over the issue

Chapek came under fire after a group of LGBTQ employees at Disney asked their coworkers to join them in walking out of their workplaces during their breaks every day since March 15 to demand Disney 'protect employees and their families in the face of such open and unapologetic bigotry'

Chapek came under fire after a group of LGBTQ employees at Disney asked their coworkers to join them in walking out of their workplaces during their breaks every day since March 15 to demand Disney ‘protect employees and their families in the face of such open and unapologetic bigotry’

Among other measures to smooth out edges after a rough start to his tenure in January, Chapek told employees that Disney would put together a task force overseen by film executive Paul Roeder and Disney Parks marketing executive Lisa Becket. 

The task force would be in charge of making sure that more LGBTQ-awareness content is available for children.  

On Friday, reports emerged that Disney was putting a kissing scene between two women back into their upcoming ‘Toy Story’ spinoff ‘Lightyear’ after Pixar employees accused the parent company of cutting gay characters from films.  

A source told Variety that the film – which stars Chris Evans as a fictional ‘real life’ inspiration for the ‘Toy Story’ character Buzz Lightyear – features a character named Hawthorne, voiced by actress Uzo Aduba, who is in a relationship with another woman.

The relationship was apparently kept in the film but a kiss between the two characters had been allegedly cut and was restored amid the recent uproar. 

Neither Disney nor Pixar has made any public comment regarding the scene or the film, which isn’t slated to premiere until June 17.   

Corporate statements 'do very little to change outcomes or minds' and instead are 'often weaponized by one side or the other to further divide and inflame,' Chapek wrote in a March 7 memo

Corporate statements ‘do very little to change outcomes or minds’ and instead are ‘often weaponized by one side or the other to further divide and inflame,’ Chapek wrote in a March 7 memo

Staff at Disney-owned Pixar Animation Studios said in a letter to Chapek they were 'disappointed, hurt, afraid and angry' over their company's silence on the passing of the bill

Staff at Disney-owned Pixar Animation Studios said in a letter to Chapek they were ‘disappointed, hurt, afraid and angry’ over their company’s silence on the passing of the bill

Chapek came under fire after a group of LGBTQ employees at Disney asked their coworkers to join them in walking out of their workplaces during their breaks every day since March 15 to demand Disney ‘protect employees and their families in the face of such open and unapologetic bigotry.’

The friction began with an internal memo from Chapek on March 7 after a meeting with members of the company’s LGBT community. 

In the note, cited by local media, Chapek said he was hesitant for Disney to speak out against the Florida bill, which has received condemnation for impeding students’ access to ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity’ information at elementary schools.

Corporate statements ‘do very little to change outcomes or minds’ and instead are ‘often weaponized by one side or the other to further divide and inflame,’ Chapek wrote.   

Staff at Disney-owned Pixar Animation Studios said in a letter to Chapek they were ‘disappointed, hurt, afraid and angry’ over their company’s silence on the passing of the bill. 

In an attempt to amend his relationship with employees after his highly criticized memo, Chapek said on Monday that he plans to go on a global listening tour of employees, the Journal reported.  

Bob Iger’s VERY long goodbye from Disney

While lionized by staff for propelling the Walt Disney Company to glittering new heights, Bob Iger angered his successor Bob Chapek with a drawn-out goodbye. 

Chapek was named as Disney’s new CEO in February 2020, as COVID cases began to hit the US.

Iger was named as executive chairman by Disney, with the entertainment giant keen to have him on hand to help ease Chapek into the top role.

Tensions erupted in spring 2020 after Iger announced he was staying because of the unprecedented challenge posed to Disney by the COVID pandemic.

That saw it forced to shutter its parks globally, with box office receipts also slumping off a cliff after movie theaters closed.

Iger stayed on as chairman until New Year’s Eve 2021, when he finally stepped down and was replaced by Susan Arnold. 

The New Yorker was born to a middle class family, and started his career as a manual laborer at ABC, where he earned $150-a-week.

He dreamt of becoming a TV anchor, but went on to become an extremely successful producer.

Iger was named president of Walt Disney International in 1999, four years after the firm bought ABC, and was promoted to CEO in 2005.  

Chapek’s statements before Monday have been met with a barrage of objections, as they were seen as a lack of support for the LGBT community. A campaign to boycott Disney circulated on social media.

Emerging as one of the strongest detractors of Chapek’s stance was Abigail Disney, the granddaughter of Roy O. Disney, who cofounded the cultural behemoth with his brother Walt. 

Disney, which has a huge presence in the Sunshine State in the form of its Walt Disney World resort, had faced weeks of criticism both internally and externally over its lack of public response. 

‘You needed me to be a stronger ally in the fight for equal rights and I let you down,’ CEO Bob Chapek said in an email on Friday to staff. ‘I am sorry.’  

‘It is clear that this is not just an issue about a bill in Florida, but instead yet another challenge to basic human rights,’ he wrote in an email.

‘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.’   

He also assured he had called Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who is expected to sign the bill into law, ‘to express our disappointment and concern that if the legislation becomes law, it could be used to unfairly target gay, lesbian, non-binary and transgender kids and families,’ the Los Angeles Times reported.

But Chapek’s comments could not extinguish the already burning controversy over the legislation, which is part of a nationwide effort by Republicans who feel they are wresting back control from liberal policies they say undermine traditional family values.  

The bill, officially entitled Parental Rights in Education- is expected to become law from July 1, and teachers who breach its regulations can then be sued by parents. 

Chapek’s feud with his predecessor Bob Iger after Iger delayed his retirement to ‘help’ Chapek tackle the COVID pandemic has not helped his transition into his new role. 

Iger, 71, resigned in February 2020 weeks before Disney Parks shut as a result of the pandemic. However, in April, Iger stunned onlookers when again announced that he would be staying on as the company's top executive, citing the severity of the coronavirus crisis and subsequent park closures.

Chapek, forced to the sidelines in a secondary role until just last month, was infuriated by the slight, sources told NBC

New Disney boss Bob Chapek (right) no longer keeps in contact with former head exec Bob Iger (left), it has been reported, following a falling out that occurred between the two around the time Iger resigned from the company two years ago

Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom sits deserted in July 2020. Disney's former CEO Bob Iger reportedly infuriated his handpicked successor Bob Chapek by delaying his retirement for a fourth time to stay on and steer the entertainment giant through the pandemic

Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom sits deserted in July 2020. Disney’s former CEO Bob Iger reportedly infuriated his handpicked successor Bob Chapek by delaying his retirement for a fourth time to stay on and steer the entertainment giant through the pandemic 

The executives, who were once very close, now no longer speak after Iger infuriated Chapek by delaying his exit three times. 

Iger, who handpicked Chapek to succeed him, announced plans to stay on for a fourth time to help steer the firm through the early days of COVID in March 2020, as it was forced to shutter its money-spinning theme parks, and movie theaters that showed its films closed. 

CNBC reported that Chapek, who earned a total salary of $26 million in 2021, was ‘furious’ at Iger, didn’t need a ‘white knight’ and had not asked for any help. 

The men, who were once close, barely exchanged words at a party held late last year to commemorate Iger’s retirement from the entertainment giant. 

He stayed on as executive chairman after quitting as CEO, but stepped down from that role at the end of 2021. 

Their rift is also said to have caused issues for Chapek as he seeks to ingratiate himself among other Disney executives who remain loyal to Iger thanks to his glittering tenure at the helm of the entertainment giant, which began in 2005. 

Iger also caused ructions after he recently spoke out forcefully against the Don’t Say Gay bill.

Chapek has been condemned by staff for refusing to take his own vehement stance against it, and has since expressed regret. 

He is said to have angered many of Disney’s thousands of Orlando-based staffers, although polls show that the bill itself is supported by a majority of Americans.  

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