Disney sued Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday, claiming he orchestrated a retaliation campaign against the company.
The lawsuit, a copy of which was obtained by Semafor, claims that the governor’s actions — including handpicking an oversight board for the special taxing district surrounding Disney World — have threatened Disney’s business.
The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Florida, claims that DeSantis orchestrated a “targeted campaign of government retaliation” against the company and was involved “at every step.”
In response to the lawsuit, DeSantis’s communications director Taryn Fenske said in a statement: “We are unaware of any legal right that a company has to operate its own government or maintain special privileges not held by other businesses in the state.”
Fenske said the suit is “yet another unfortunate example of their hope to undermine the will of the Florida voters and operate outside the bounds of the law.”
DeSantis, a likely 2024 GOP presidential candidate, has publicly criticized Disney since last year, when Disney’s then-CEO criticized the Florida education law that critics called the “Don’t say gay” bill.
Since then, DeSantis and other conservative allies have branded the company as “Woke Disney” and he’s sought punitive measures against it.
“We’ll make sure that we keep them in their pen, one way or another,” DeSantis said last week.
Recently, he half-jokingly floated the idea of building a state prison on state-controlled land located near Disney World.
On Wednesday, the oversight board voted to nullify two development deals that would allow Disney to expand on the land around the park — despite past maneuvers from Disney to limit the board’s power for years.
“Today’s action is the latest strike,” the lawsuit states. “Disney finds itself in this regrettable position because it expressed a viewpoint the Governor and his allies did not like.”
The View From The 2024 GOP field
DeSantis’s potential rivals in the race for the 2024 GOP nomination have seized on his fight with Disney to criticize him. They say he has been badly outmaneuvered by the company in his attempt to control the oversight board.
“DeSanctus is being absolutely destroyed by Disney,” former President Donald Trump wrote last week on Truth Social, using his nickname for the governor.
Asked about the lawsuit on Fox News, former South Carolina Gov. and 2024 candidate Nikki Haley said that “if Disney would like to move their hundreds of thousands of jobs to South Carolina and bring the billions of dollars with them ... I’ll be happy to meet them in South Carolina.”
She followed up in a tweet: “SC’s not woke, but we’re not sanctimonious about it either.”
At an event hosted by Semafor, former New Jersey Gov. and potential presidential candidate Chris Christie said the fight calls DeSantis’ conservatism, judgment, and maturity into question.