DeSantis’ feud with Disney could go to US Supreme Court. A political expert explains why

Disney claims governor is punishing business for exercising free speech

The battle between Governor Ron Desantis and The Walt Disney Company continues to heat up.

University of Central Florida History Professor and News 6 Political Analyst Dr. Jim Clark said it may not end until it gets to the Supreme Court.

Clark recently joined Matt Austin and Ginger Gadsden on Florida’s Fourth Estate to talk about the governor’s ongoing battle to strip Disney of some of its self-governing abilities.

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The battle originally took center stage when Disney took a stand against the governor’s Parental Rights in Education Bill, called the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by its critics. The company also paused political donations in Florida surrounding the battle.

In retaliation, the Republican majority in the Florida Legislature, at the governor’s request, passed a law that dissolved the Reedy Creek Improvement District, the special government oversight and taxing agency created in the 1960s when Disney entered into an agreement with the state to form the land to build Walt Disney World.

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Clark said a government cannot go after a business because “things got personal”.

“A previous Supreme Court, in a rather obscure case involving a tow truck company, where the tow truck driver criticized the mayor and the mayor removed him from the list of city approved tow truck companies and the Supreme Court ruled government cannot punish someone for free speech, and they have come down on this previously,” he said.

Clark said it is clear lawmakers have a personal vendetta against Disney.

“One state representative, Randy Fine from Brevard County, said publicly, ‘We are targeting Disney.’ And the Supreme Court has said you cannot target anybody for using free speech,” he said.

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The governor has said the free market is not about giving companies their own governments. DeSantis said Disney has been treated much differently than other local theme parks and Disney wants to control things without proper oversight which all other Florida businesses need to comply with.

The governor has balked at the media giants lawsuit.

“I don’t think the suit has merit,” he said. “I think it’s political. I think they filed in Tallahassee for a reason because they are trying to generate some district court decision, but we are very confident on the law.”

Hear more about the battle between DeSantis and The Walt Disney Company on Florida’s Fourth Estate.

You can download the podcast from wherever you listen to podcasts or watch it anytime on News 6+.

About the Authors:

Tiffany produces the News 6+ Takeover at 5:30 p.m., Florida's Fourth Estate and Talk to Tom.

Emmy Award-winning anchor Matt Austin joined the News 6 team in June 2011 and has been the evening news co-anchor since December 2013.