Disney on Wednesday filed suit in federal court against Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, alleging his administration’s takeover of its theme park district in the state is part of “a targeted campaign of government retaliation.”
The move is the latest salvo in an increasingly bitter fight between the entertainment giant and DeSantis, a Republican presidential hopeful for the 2024 election.
The lawsuit, filed in a federal court in Florida, names DeSantis and other members of the conservative governor’s administration.
“A targeted campaign of government retaliation — orchestrated at every step by Governor 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,” it says.
Disney attracted the governor’s ire last year after it criticized a law banning school lessons on sexual orientation — the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law.
DeSantis, who has used the fight to burnish his populist right-wing credentials against what he says is a “woke” corporation, seized control of Walt Disney World’s self-governing district in February.
On Wednesday, a DeSantis-appointed panel voted to vacate agreements that gave Disney effective powers of self-governance at its huge complex in Florida, which employs 75,000 people and attracts 50 million visitors annually.
Moments later, the company hit back.
“The company is left with no choice but to file this lawsuit to protect its cast members, guests, and local development partners from a relentless campaign to weaponize government power against Disney in retaliation for expressing a political viewpoint unpopular with certain State officials,” it said in the complaint.
“This is as clear a case of retaliation as this Court is ever likely to see.”
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