Disney is suing Ron DeSantis over alleged government "retaliation."
It's the latest escalation in the feud between the Florida governor (R) and the woke entertainment company, which DeSantis has pledged to penalize for "grooming" children.
DeSantis, who is widely expected to launch a campaign for president in the coming days, dismissed the lawsuit as "political" while visiting Israel.
The governor has a lot riding on the Disney battle, which has become synonymous with his brand as an aggressive right-wing culture warrior.
The dispute began with Disney's boycott of DeSantis' so-called "Don't Say Gay" law, which restricts teachers from discussing sex with children in third grade and below.
DeSantis replaced Disney's self-governing tax district with his own oversight board, but Disney then stripped the board of its authority in a surprise agreement. When DeSantis' board voted to cancel that agreement Wednesday, Disney sued.
The corporation complained of a "relentless campaign to weaponize government power against Disney in retaliation for expressing a political viewpoint unpopular with certain State officials.”
“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,” the lawsuit said.
Some Republicans have objected to DeSantis' approach, partly out of limited government principle and partly out of fear his fight could backfire in the court of public opinion. DeSantis raised eyebrows when he jokingly threatened to build a prison next to Florida's resort.
Speaker Kevin McCarthy (Ca.), a Donald Trump ally, urged DeSantis to seek a truce.
"This is a big employer inside Florida,” he added. “I think the governor should sit down with them. I don’t think the idea of building a prison next to a place that you bring your family is the best idea. I think it’d be much better if you sat down and solved the problems.”
In his defense, the governor says Disney isn't operating by the rules of the free market.
“That is not what a free market is all about. Last I checked, in fact, they’ve been treated much different than Universal, SeaWorld and all these other places," he said. "And so they’re upset because they’re actually having to live by the same rules as everybody else.”
The governor is the only Republican seen as a serious primary threat to President Trump, the GOP's 2024 frontrunner. Trump has mocked his rival's efforts to subdue Disney as an ineffectual public relations stunt.