Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis reacted to Disney’s lawsuit against him, saying it’s time for the company to “live by the same rules as everybody else.”
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday dismissed Disney's lawsuit against him, calling it politically motivated and saying it is not "pro-business" to let one company get favorable treatment from the government.
Disney filed a lawsuit against DeSantis on Wednesday, alleging the Republican orchestrated a "targeted campaign of government retaliation" against the company that violates Disney's free speech rights. Disney is challenging the legality of a new board appointed by DeSantis to govern the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District – where the Walt Disney World resort is located.
"I don't think the suit has merit," the governor said in Jerusalem.
The legal complaint is an escalation of a fight between DeSantis and Disney that began last year when the House of Mouse campaigned to overturn Florida's Parental Rights in Education law, which detractors misleadingly labeled the "Don't Say Gay" bill. DeSantis, widely expected to run for president in 2024, responded by pushing the Florida legislature to strip Disney's self-governing authority and create a new board, full of his appointees, which now has control over the theme park's development.
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"They’re upset because they’re having to live by the same rules as everybody else. They don’t want to pay the same taxes as everybody else and they want to be able to control things without proper oversight," DeSantis said. "The days of putting one company on a pedestal with no accountability are over in the state of Florida."
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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis talks to the media at a conference titled “Celebrate the Faces of Israel” at Jerusalem’s Museum of Tolerance, Thursday, April 27, 2023. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo / AP Newsroom)
DeSantis was speaking on the third leg of an international trip meant to burnish his foreign policy credentials ahead of a potential campaign for the Republican presidential nomination as a key rival to former President Donald Trump.
The governor has leaned in to his spat with Disney, one of Florida's largest employers and a major source of tourism to the Sunshine State, even as business leaders and other GOP 2024 hopefuls have bashed his actions as non-conservative and anti-business.
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General views of the Walt Disney World Resort, celebrating its 50th anniversary on April 03, 2022 in Orlando, Florida. (AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images / Getty Images)
"Hey @Disney, my home state will happily accept your 70,000+ jobs if you want to leave Florida," tweeted Republican presidential candidate former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley on Wednesday. "SC's not woke, but we're not sanctimonious about it either."
Her dig at DeSantis parroted former President Donald Trump, who is also running for president and has taken to calling DeSantis "Ron DeSanctimonious" or "DeSanctus." Earlier this month, Trump called DeSantis' fight with Disney a "political STUNT."
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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis waves as he arrives to a conference titled “Celebrate the Faces of Israel” at Jerusalem’s Museum of Tolerance, Thursday, April 27, 2023. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo, Pool / AP Newsroom)
But the Florida governor has brushed off these criticisms.
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"The idea that somehow being pro-business means giving companies their own governments, that is not what a free market is all about, last I checked," DeSantis said Thursday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.