Actress Kerry Washington, who starred in Disney-owned ABC’s hit drama Scandal, is the latest celebrity to slam the company for not publicly opposing Florida’s so-called ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill.
Washington posted a statement to her social media Tuesday that she ‘does not condone the actions or inactions of Disney in this moment’ – adding that she supports Disney employees who chose to walk out this week to protest the company’s slow response to the controversy and its political donations to the legislation’s architects.
‘I wholeheartedly support the LGBTQIA+ employees, and stand with them in this walk out today. Please know that you matter. Your rights matter. Your voices matter. I encourage you all to help their voices ring louder today.’
Last week, actress Gabrielle Union also criticized Disney for its response to the bill while she was attending the ‘Cheaper by the Dozen’ premiere.
‘Somebody asked me, ‘Are you disappointed?’ I’m disappointed when my order isn’t right at In-N-Out. I don’t even think that’s a word that you could use for something like this, where children’s lives are literally hanging in the balance,’ Union told Variety.
‘We need to own that if you truly are taking stands against hate and oppression, you should not fund hate and oppression. Period. The damage is done.’
The pair of celebrities are the first to criticize the entertainment corporation over the controversy – though a host of celebrities have also publicly criticized the bill itself, including Mark Ruffalo, Mark Hamill, and Shawn Mendes, among many others.
Ruffalo even tweeted in protest of the Florida bill, ‘Gay! Gay! Gay! #SayGayAnyway.’
The legislation, officially known as the Parental Rights in Education bill, bars instruction on ‘sexual orientation or gender identity’ in kindergarten through grade three. Introduced by two Florida lawmakers and backed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, they say the bill’s aim is to ’empower parents’ in their children’s education, and make teachers recognize the distinction between ‘instruction’ and ‘discussion.’
Actress Kerry Washington, who starred in Disney-owned ABC’s hit drama Scandal, is the latest celebrity to slam the company for not publicly opposing Florida’s so-called ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill
Washington posted a statement to her social media Tuesday that she ‘does not condone the actions or inactions of Disney in this moment’
Last week, actress Gabrielle Union also criticized Disney for its response to the bill while she was attending the ‘Cheaper by the Dozen’ premiere
In a town hall meeting on Monday, Disney CEO Bob Chapek said the entertainment behemoth would put together a task force to ensure that more LGBTQ-awareness content is available for children.
On Friday, reports emerged that Disney was reinstating a kissing scene between two women in the upcoming ‘Toy Story’ spinoff, ‘Lightyear’ – after Pixar employees accused the parent company of cutting gay characters from films.
‘It’s not Disney’s place to play politics. Buzz light-year doesn’t need gay characters. It needs a good story, good performances, and to answer archetypal questions,’ Twitter user @RageQuitSco responded. ‘If the inclusion of gay characters does that, I’ll show it to my kids. But not if it’s just far left propaganda.’
Another user wrote: ‘This is one Disney story that my child will never see.’
On Tuesday, dozens of employees marched outside of Disney’s headquarters in Burbank, California chanting, ‘Say Gay!’ as part of a full day of walkouts across the company’s theme parks and offices.
Florida’s bill would ban the teaching of lessons on sexuality, gender identity and sexual orientation ‘in a manner that is not age appropriate.’ Disney expressed support for the walkouts in a Facebook post Tuesday morning, a day after Chapek said he regretted not taking a stance against the bill earlier.
‘We oppose any legislation that infringes on basic human rights, and stand in solidarity and support our LGBTQIA+ Cast, Crew, and Imagineers and fans who make their voices heard today and every day,’ the company said on Facebook.
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Dozens of employees marched outside of Disney’s headquarters in Burbank, California on Tuesday as part of a full day of walkouts across the company’s theme parks and offices
Disney employee Nicholas Maldonado holds a sign while protesting outside of Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida on Tuesday
Disney CEO Bob Chapek told employees during a virtual town hall that he regretted not taking a public stance against Florida’s controversial ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill and that the company will create a task force to focus on more LGBTQ content
Disney has reportedly reinstated a gay kiss in its upcoming Toy Story spinoff amid the criticism. Hawthorne (voiced by Uzo Aduba), a character in the film Lightyear, has a relationship with another female character in the film
Parents have taken to social media to criticize Disney for catering to the demands of some of its employees and fans who want more LGBTQ representation in media
Romualdas Dulskis, a Teamsters official in Orlando whose local represents costumed characters who portray Mickey Mouse, Cinderella and Stich at Walt Disney World along with bus drivers and other Disney workers, said his union did not support the walkout.
‘That’s just not the way we are going to go about this,’ he said.
Union leaders said contracts prohibit work stoppages or disruptions.
‘I don’t want to downplay anyone’s efforts, if someone feels what they are doing is the right way to make an impact,’ said Eric Clinton, president of Unite Here! Local 362, which represents custodians, housekeepers and other Disney World workers.
‘We aren’t part of that. It would violate our contract if members of our union participated, though we are concerned about the issue, of course.’
On Monday, Chapek told employees during a virtual town hall Monday that he regretted not taking a public stance against Florida’s controversial ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill.
Chapek already is facing leadership problems amid a rift with his predecessor, Bob Iger, and discontent from employees who remain loyal to Iger, thanks to his glittering tenure.
Chapek acknowledged that Disney made a mistake by not publicly decrying the bill.
‘I and the leadership team are determined to use this moment as a catalyst for more meaningful and lasting change,’ Chapek, 61, said during a virtual town hall meeting.
Some parents have taken Disney to task over its decision to reinstate a gay kiss in an upcoming film
Chapek also pledged to fiercely oppose Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s attempt to investigate parents of children undergoing gender-transitioning procedures for child abuse, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Among other measures to smooth out edges after a rough start to his tenure in January, Chapek told employees that Disney would put together a task force overseen by film executive Paul Roeder and Disney Parks marketing executive Lisa Becket.
The task force would be in charge of making sure that more LGBTQ-awareness content is available for children.
But one Twitter user hit back, ‘Why does Disney not complain about the way china treats gay people, Ugyhurs, or the people that make the clothes you wear.’
Another user said they’ve renounced the company’s parks altogether.
‘I used to take my kids there every year. Now I refuse to take my grandkids back. You’ve made everything less magical and everything gay.’
Disney expressed support for the demonstration in a Facebook post Tuesday morning
A source told Variety that ‘Toy Story’ spinoff ‘Lightyear’, which stars Chris Evans as a fictional ‘real life’ inspiration for the ‘Toy Story’ character Buzz Lightyear, features a character named Hawthorne, voiced by actress Uzo Aduba, who is in a relationship with another woman.
The relationship was apparently kept in the film but a kiss between the two characters had been allegedly cut and was restored Friday amid the recent uproar.
Neither Disney nor Pixar has publicly commented on the scene or the film, which isn’t slated to premiere until June 17.
The friction began with an internal memo from Chapek on March 7 after a meeting with members of the company’s LGBT community.
Corporate statements ‘do very little to change outcomes or minds’ and instead are ‘often weaponized by one side or the other to further divide and inflame,’ Chapek wrote in a March 7 memo
In the note, cited by local media, Chapek said he was hesitant for Disney to speak out against the Florida bill, which has received condemnation for impeding students’ access to ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity’ information at elementary schools.
Corporate statements ‘do very little to change outcomes or minds’ and instead are ‘often weaponized by one side or the other to further divide and inflame,’ Chapek wrote.
Bob vs. Bob: Former and current Disney CEOs are ‘no longer on speaking terms’
Bob Chapek (left) and Bob Iger (right)
Former Disney CEO Bob Iger, 71, resigned in February 2020, just weeks before the company’s parks shut down due to the pandemic.
Bob Chapek, 61, was slated to start in March. He was handpicked by Iger himself.
But Iger had a sudden change of heart about his retirement.
In April, he announced he would be staying on to guide the company, citing the severity of the COVID crisis and park closures.
Chapek was forced to the sidelines until this January. He reportedly felt like ‘a hapless second banana,’ sources told NBC, and was infuriated by Iger’s continued retirement delays.
The company issued a statement back in spring 2020 announcing that Chapek, then co-CEO, would take over in the near future.
Insiders said Iger grew increasingly angry over decisions Chapek made without his input, including a reorganization of the company that laid off 28,000 theme park staff.
The men, who were once close, barely exchanged words at a party held late last year to commemorate Iger’s retirement from the entertainment giant.
Staff at Disney-owned Pixar Animation Studios said in a letter to Chapek they were ‘disappointed, hurt, afraid and angry’ over their company’s silence on the passing of the bill.
In an attempt to amend his relationship with employees after his highly criticized memo, Chapek said on Monday that he plans to go on a global listening tour of employees, the Journal reported.
Chapek’s statements before Monday have been met with a barrage of objections, as they were seen as a lack of support for the LGBT community. A campaign to boycott Disney circulated on social media.
Emerging as one of the strongest detractors of Chapek’s stance was Abigail Disney, the granddaughter of Roy O. Disney, who cofounded the cultural behemoth with his brother Walt.
Disney, which has a huge presence in the Sunshine State in the form of its Walt Disney World resort, had faced weeks of criticism both internally and externally over its lack of public response.
‘You needed me to be a stronger ally in the fight for equal rights and I let you down,’ Chapek said in an email on Friday to staff. ‘I am sorry.’
‘It is clear that this is not just an issue about a bill in Florida, but instead yet another challenge to basic human rights,’ he wrote in an email.
‘Our employees see the power of this great company as an opportunity to do good. I agree. Yes, we need to use our influence to promote that good by telling inclusive stories, but also by standing up for the rights of all.’
He also assured he had called Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who is expected to sign the bill into law, ‘to express our disappointment and concern that if the legislation becomes law, it could be used to unfairly target gay, lesbian, non-binary and transgender kids and families,’ the Los Angeles Times reported.
But Chapek’s comments could not extinguish the already burning controversy over the legislation, which is part of a nationwide effort by Republicans who feel they are wresting back control from liberal policies they say undermine traditional family values.
The bill, officially entitled Parental Rights in Education- is expected to become law July 1, and teachers who breach its regulations can then be sued by parents.
Chapek’s feud with Iger, which began after Iger delayed his retirement to ‘help’ Chapek tackle the COVID pandemic, has not helped his transition into his new role.
The executives, who were once very close, now no longer speak after Iger infuriated Chapek by delaying his exit three times.
Iger, who handpicked Chapek to succeed him, announced plans to stay on for a fourth time to help steer the firm through the early days of COVID in March 2020, as it was forced to shutter its money-spinning theme parks, and theaters showing its films closed.
New Disney boss Bob Chapek (right) no longer keeps in contact with former head exec Bob Iger (left), it has been reported, following a falling out that occurred between the two around the time Iger resigned from the company two years ago
CNBC reported that Chapek, who earned a total salary of $26 million in 2021, was ‘furious’ at Iger, didn’t need a ‘white knight’ and had not asked for any help.
The men barely exchanged words at a party held late last year to commemorate Iger’s retirement from the entertainment giant.
He stayed on as executive chairman after quitting as CEO, but stepped down from that role at the end of 2021.
Their rift is also said to have caused issues for Chapek as he seeks to ingratiate himself among other Disney executives who remain loyal to Iger thanks to his glittering tenure at the helm of the entertainment giant, which began in 2005.
Iger also caused ructions after he recently spoke out forcefully against the Don’t Say Gay bill, although polls show that the bill is supported by a majority of Americans.