DeSantis Says Disney Lawsuit Has No Merit

April 27, 2023

JERUSALEM (Reuters)—Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on Thursday brushed off a lawsuit against him by Walt Disney Co, describing it as politically motivated and accusing the company of lacking accountability and transparency.

Speaking in Jerusalem during an international tour aimed at burnishing his foreign policy credentials before an expected presidential bid, DeSantis hailed Israel as "one of the most valued and trusted" allies of the United States.

But he faced questions on the lawsuit filed against him by Disney, which has accused his administration of "weaponizing its power to inflict political punishment" in a dispute over special provisions for the Disney World theme part in central Florida.

"I don't think the suit has merit, I think it's political," DeSantis told reporters at a news conference.

DeSantis, who is expected to challenge former President Donald Trump for the Republican nomination, has been embroiled in a row with Disney over a Florida measure banning classroom discussion of sexuality and gender identity with young children.

Florida has passed legislation ending special conditions that gave Disney virtual autonomy in the Florida district where Disney World is located and where it attracts millions of visitors a year.

"They had no transparency, no accountability, none of that, and that arrangement was not good for the state of Florida," DeSantis said.

"We did not think that that should continue, so we now have brought accountability." he said.

Disney, which has criticised the Florida classroom measure, says the state government has illegally punished it for voicing an opinion that should be protected by free speech rights.

(Reporting by Emily Rose, Writing by James Mackenzie; Editing by Robert Birsel)