On the menu today: Disney continues its ineffective efforts to stop Florida from enforcing its ban on discussing sex with young children and Republicans continue to mull whether they’ll vote for Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Court confirmation.
Disney’s Anti-Florida Campaign Continues
There’s no doubt about it: Disney was caught behind the eight ball. The company ought to have known that some number of its loudest employees would be outraged by Florida’s new law forbidding the discussion of sexual topics with children in kindergarten through third grade. By the accounting of these woke employees — who have been trumpeting the media-fueled misnomer “Don’t Say Gay” through bullhorns for the last two weeks — Disney failed to use its considerable influence in the state to kneecap the legislation while it could still be stopped.
Perhaps to save face after Governor Ron DeSantis essentially told the company to take a hike several times, Disney has most recently tried to claim that its lobbyists were working to block the bill behind the scenes all along. In a statement, shortly after beginning to face criticism for the company’s supposed inaction, Disney CEO Bob Chapek explaining that leaders “thought we could be more effective working behind-the-scenes, engaging directly with lawmakers — on both sides of the aisle.” Our own Isaac Schorr reports that Disney does not in fact appear to have been lobbying in this capacity at all:
At a press conference on Tuesday, DeSantis cast doubt on Chapek’s version of events, remarking that Chris Sprowls, the speaker of Florida’s House of Representatives, never even heard from Disney while the bill was making its way through the legislative process.
Sprowls confirmed as much in an interview with National Review. Even as the company was supposedly working to effectively push back on the legislation, it never picked up the phone to speak with the most powerful member of the House.
What’s more, Sprowls pointed out, is that there is no record of any lobbyist working on behalf of Disney ever having lobbied any member of the Florida House on the bill.
“We checked the action packets for the House Education and Employment, and Judiciary, and Senate Appropriations Committee hearings where HB 1557 was considered,” said Sprowls. “The Walt Disney Corporation did not submit any appearance cards on the bill for any of these meetings. Furthermore, the Florida House requires lobbyists to identify which bills they are lobbying on and no Disney lobbyist registered on HB 1557.”
The registry indicates that Disney had at least 19 different representatives lobbying members of the House on a number of different pieces of legislation in 2021, including the Big Tech bill from which it was granted an exemption. There is no record that a registered lobbyist advocated against HB 1557 for the company.
So Chapek and Disney are back to square one, wrestling with employees who insist that the company Do Something Right Now. One such concession to wokeism appears to be preparing to cram woke content into children’s programming. “If we can’t get them in the classroom, we’ll get them at the movie theater,” or something.
In several leaked videos, Disney executives pledged to depict more “transgender and gender-nonconforming” characters in their films — or “queer leads,” as one higher-up put it. In the same vein, they aim to erase all references to “ladies and gentlemen” and “boys and girls” at Disney parks.
The company, in short, finds itself engaged in a game it simply cannot win. On one side is some number of its own employees — we do not even know if it’s a majority or simply a very loud faction — berating the company for not “doing enough” to stop this law, as if Disney had been elected to run the state of Florida. On the other side is Florida’s government, its vocal governor who is insusceptible to bullies, and — important to note — some not insignificant portion of its customers.
It is hard to imagine that, even if some number of parents opposes Florida’s legislation, most parents are hoping Disney’s children’s movies will respond to the law by featuring more sexual themes and “queer leads.” What’s more, polling suggests that most American parents actually don’t oppose Florida’s law at all. When presented with the actual text of the legislation — as opposed to merely being told about it by the pollster — 61 percent of Americans say they support it.
But this seems irrelevant to Disney executives, who are intent on virtue-signaling their way into oblivion. Even the company’s former CEO, Bob Iger, felt the need to double down on the company’s stance in an interview with CNN’s Chris Wallace.
“A lot of these issues aren’t necessarily political,” Iger said. “It’s about right and wrong. To me, it wasn’t politics. It was what is right and what is wrong, and that just seemed wrong. It seemed potentially harmful to kids.”
Iger added that CEOs should be willing to accept “that they’re going to have to weigh in on issues, even if voicing an opinion on those issues potentially puts some of your business in danger. . . . Again, when you’re dealing with right and wrong, or when you’re dealing with something that does have a profound impact on your business, then I just think you have to do what is right and not worry about the potential backlash, to it.”
Let’s leave aside the silliness of the notion that Disney has some moral obligation to bully Florida’s legislators and governor into enacting the company’s preferred social agenda. Focus on what Iger is saying — and what Chapek and Disney have also said — about the law itself. This is a law, again, that forbids teaching sexual topics such as “gender identity” to children between the ages of four and nine. For all their blathering, not a single Disney executive has attempted to explain what precisely is so “harmful” and “immoral” about that.
Republicans Weigh Their Votes on Jackson’s Nomination
Earlier this week, Senator Susan Collins of Maine became the first Republican senator to say that she’ll vote to confirm Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court. Collins said she decided to vote this way because she believes that Jackson will not be “bending the law to meet a personal preference.”
“In recent years, senators on both sides of the aisle have gotten away from what I perceive to be the appropriate process for evaluating judicial nominees,” Collins said when announcing how she’ll vote. “In my view, the role under the Constitution assigned to the Senate is to look at the credentials, experience and qualifications of the nominee. It is not to assess whether a nominee reflects the individual ideology of a senator or would vote exactly as an individual senator would want.”
So far, most other Republicans have said they’ll decline to vote for Jackson, in many cases citing disagreements with her judicial philosophy. Though Jackson said during her confirmation hearing that she believes “it is appropriate to look at the original intent, original public meaning of the words,” she does not describe herself as an originalist or a textualist, and she seems to have a far more expansive view of judicial power. This appears to be the driving force behind the decision of some Republicans to oppose her nomination.
Senator Ben Sasse (R., Neb.) noted that Jackson “refused to claim originalism as her judicial philosophy” and that she instead seems to believe that it is “just one of the tools judges use — not a genuine constraint on judicial power.”
North Carolina senator Thom Tillis praised Jackson’s “knowledge, her composure and her character,” but likewise said he’ll vote against her: “I still hold my initial concerns that she may legislate from the bench instead of consistently following the Constitution as written.” Tillis also noted that Jackson refused to condemn the idea of expanding the size of the Supreme Court, a common complaint among Republicans, despite the fact that Jackson can’t do very much about this as a justice.
According to a New York Times report, the White House had hoped that Republican senators Richard Burr of North Carolina and Roy Blunt of Missouri might vote to confirm Jackson, but neither will do so. (Burr cited his concern that Jackson gave “unsatisfactory” responses regarding the possibility of Court-packing.) This leaves just two potential Republican “yes” votes besides Collins — Alaska senator Lisa Murkowski and Utah senator Mitt Romney of Utah:
Mr. Romney met with the judge on Tuesday but said he had not made up his mind and probably would not reveal his decision until the vote, now expected next week. He said the announcement by Ms. Collins would not figure into his thinking.
“I make the decision based on my own analysis and evaluation,” he said.
Ms. Murkowski, who is running for re-election this year in a contest projected to be the most expensive and challenging of her career, also may not make her decision known until next week. While she has supported more Biden administration lower-court judicial nominees than many of her colleagues — including Judge Jackson for her current spot on the appeals court — she voted against both justices former President Barack Obama named to the Supreme Court.
The Senate will vote on Jackson’s nomination on Monday, and Romney has said he is planning not to announce which way he’ll vote until then.
ADDENDUM: Earlier this week, I participated in a debate at Notre Dame against feminist writer Jill Filipovic, debating whether women need legal abortion in order to be free and equal. I got some pushback from pro-lifers who insisted that abortion “shouldn’t be up for debate,” so I wrote a piece here at NRO about why I think these sorts of debates are important. You can watch the debate here, if you’re interested.