(NEW YORK) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday that he doesn’t think Disney’s lawsuit against him “has merit.”
“I think it’s political,” DeSantis said during a press conference in Jerusalem as he visited Israel.
“Do you want one company to have their own fiefdom, or do you want everyone to live under the same laws?” he added. “The days of putting one company on a pedestal with no accountability are over in the state of Florida.”
Disney, the parent company of ABC News, filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida on Wednesday against DeSantis and various state officials over a campaign the company alleges was “patently retaliatory, patently anti-business, and patently unconstitutional.”
The lawsuit follows the state oversight board’s decision to void “publicly noticed and duly agreed development contracts which had laid the foundation for billions of Disney’s investment dollars and thousands of jobs,” according to the legal filing. The company’s lawsuit called the move “a targeted campaign of government retaliation — orchestrated at every step by Gov. DeSantis as punishment for Disney’s protected speech — now threatens Disney’s business operations, jeopardizes its economic future in the region, and violates its constitutional rights.”
DeSantis, who is expected to launch a 2024 presidential campaign in the coming months, embarked on an international trade mission on Monday that will take him to Europe, Asia and the Middle East. He is leading a Florida delegation to Israel, Japan, South Korea and the United Kingdom to meet with government and business leaders.
The Florida governor has been at odds with Disney since the company publicly criticized a DeSantis-backed controversial state law that restricts content concerning sexual orientation and gender identity in grades kindergarten through third grade. The Parental Rights in Education Law has been dubbed by critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” law who argue it paints LGBTQ topics as taboo or inappropriate. Meanwhile, supporters of the law say it allows parents to decide what their children can learn about certain subjects.
After DeSantis signed the bill into law in March 2022, Disney released a statement citing concerns of discrimination, saying the legislation “should never have passed and should never have been signed into law.” DeSantis has since aimed to take control over Disney’s special tax district that allows the Florida theme park and resort to govern itself, according to the company’s lawsuit. The Florida Legislature voted to dissolve the former governing board of the district and create a DeSantis-appointed Central Florida Tourism Oversight District in its place. The board voided a contract made before the CFTOD was in place, according to the lawsuit.
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