Charlie Crist questions Ron DeSantis’ ‘free state’ motto as GOP targets Disney
Charlie Crist. Image via Colin Hackley.

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'It's amazing to me how this Governor has consolidated power into one human being.'

Disney World is supposed to be the happiest place on Earth, but U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist doesn’t know if Disney is happy anymore.

Lawmakers met Wednesday to advance legislation to claw back power from the Walt Disney Company over its opposition to Florida’s Parental Rights in Education law. As they convened, Crist returned to Tallahassee, bringing a message of support for the entertainment giant.

Republican lawmakers are pushing the move, at the behest of Gov. Ron DeSantis, who Crist hopes to deny a second term in November.

“To see this kind of exercise of raw power by this Governor at this time against this institution, it’s unbelievable,” Crist told reporters.

Crist was elected Governor in 2006 as a Republican and is running his third gubernatorial bid, his second as a Democrat. The two-term Congressman called DeSantis and the Legislature’s decision to target Disney “un-American.”

“He calls us the freest state in America. What are we, we’re free to do what he tells us to do?” Crist asked.

He pointed to laws DeSantis has signed the last two years, like the 15-week abortion ban, the Parental Rights in Education law, voting legislation and the anti-riot law.

“I don’t know who’s free under Ron DeSantis’ Florida, but it’s not most of us,” Crist continued.

The parental rights legislation, dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay bill” by critics, prohibits classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity before the fourth grade and opens the door for parents to sue School Boards over instruction about LGBTQ topics they oppose.

This week’s Special Session has been on the calendar since late last month, when DeSantis vetoed the Legislature’s proposed congressional district maps. On Tuesday, less than three hours before lawmakers were set to convene, the Governor expanded the Special Session to include a pair of proposals targeting Disney’s Reedy Creek Improvement District (SB 4C/HB 3C) and a carve-out for Disney Plus in last year’s Big Tech bill (SB 6C/HB 5C).

The timing of the proposals, sprung on lawmakers with little to no warning, has been a point of concern for Democrats, who accuse Republican leadership of bowing to DeSantis on Disney and redistricting. The Senate is expected to pass its bills Wednesday afternoon, with the House following suit on Thursday.

“It’s amazing to me how this Governor has consolidated power into one human being,” Crist said. “Why even have a legislative branch? We’re supposed to have three co-equal branches of government, and this flies in the face of that, and I think it’s inappropriate.”

Democratic state Rep. Michele Rayner-Goolsby of St. Petersburg, who is running to succeed Crist in Congress, compared DeSantis and Republican lawmakers’ actions this week regarding Disney to mob intimidation tactics.

“This is just low-life thuggery,” Rayner-Goolsby said, speaking alongside Crist. “There’s no other way I can say it.”

Democratic state Rep. Dianne Hart of Tampa said addressing Disney takes away from time that could be spent on housing.

“Mickey and Minnie deserve to be heard, and just because they didn’t say what the Governor wanted them to say … he exacts lots of pain, and that’s scary,” Hart said.

Crist also said lawmakers could be spending time on other issues, like gas prices. Instead, he asserted lawmakers have focused on culture war issues as speculation continues that DeSantis will run for President.

“I think it’s a miscalculation on his part that he’s so laser-focused on a Republican Primary in two years that he’s forgotten about this election this year,” Crist said.

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.


37 comments

  • D henderson

    April 20, 2022 at 2:25 pm

    Can tell he’s a trumper. When did politicians FORGET they REPRESENT ALL the people. Not just those who voted for them. 🤦🏽‍♀️ So Disney didn’t agree with DeSatan and therefore they must be punished. Far far from freedom. More like dictator. Or because he said so. We’re on runaway train dangerous path in our country and they don’t hear the WHOO WHOO coming! Florida is again (2000 gore/bush) the laughing stock state I. America. Butt of late night-but so much material there where are folks standing up? It pussed us off him yelling at the children about masks. We think what’s ridiculous is hi. And trump followers. What the hell is in water in Tally? And remember the fraud…in 2016!!! God help us all in America. And god protect sovereignty in Ukraine. So sick of nanee nanee boo boo romper boomer stomper doo Crap! Thanks for your writing. Peace

  • TD

    April 20, 2022 at 2:38 pm

    Crist is so limp. The thought of a politician actually standing up for the people he represents appalls him. Literally accuses DeSantis of being a dictator as THE LEGISLATURE actually PASSES A BILL to AMEND A LAW. I know a lot of people in FL are slow when it comes to civics but that is pretty much the opposite of rule by decree.

    • RC

      April 21, 2022 at 1:25 am

      DeSantis is a whiny snowflake that bullies little kids. He whines about everything, and the rest of the Republicans in the legislature follow right behind him in his crusade to oppress anyone who isn’t white, straight, and christian. He is obviously anti-american in the way he handles free speech and freedom of the press, and openly supports pedophiles like Gaetz and Trump. This is the Republicans idea of a possible presidential candidate? Sad excuse for a human being is more like it.

  • Dierks

    April 20, 2022 at 3:18 pm

    So should we believe Christ is either a)stupid, or b)willing to lie to score political points? Because DeSantis can only sign a bill that the legislature passes. Christ surely knew this at some point in his life. He’s either senile or disingenuous. Hmmm….

    • Ocean Joe

      April 23, 2022 at 9:15 am

      I’m not overly religious, but if Christ is running, I don’t see how Desantis has a prayer….unless all that rightwing bible stuff is just for show.

  • Matthew Lusk

    April 20, 2022 at 3:34 pm

    Crist is a beta-male in the most pathetic sense of the phrase. WHINES LIKE A SISSY.

    • Cody warlock

      April 20, 2022 at 8:51 pm

      Takes one to know one. Take a seat karen.

  • Beth

    April 20, 2022 at 5:50 pm

    People wonder how Hitler rose to power without anyone stopping him? It is happening in FL right before our eyes. DeSantis is anti American and anti Democracy and just like trump has the mentality of a toddler on a mission to destroy this state and country. He needs to be stopped now and every one of his enablers needs to recalled or voted out.

    • Tom

      April 20, 2022 at 6:17 pm

      Ignorance is bliss, you pathetic liar.
      Hardly, the best Gov in country and the most successful.

      Being a mental Dem, Dum
      Manchurian is no accomplishment.

      • Cody

        April 20, 2022 at 8:54 pm

        Ron DeSatan is the WORST governor in the country. He’s using culture wars to play up to rubes like you. STOP VOTING FOR FASCISTS.

      • Disney coming

        April 21, 2022 at 6:07 am

        Pluto going to show up at desantis door lol

  • RJG

    April 20, 2022 at 7:11 pm

    Disney and the State of Florida made a deal in 1964. Both have reaped the benefits. An elected official who allegedly represents the Florida citizens doesn’t like what a company says has now taken revenge. Disney should shutdown and let Florida suffer the consequences. I’m sure some other state would love their business.

    • Tom

      April 21, 2022 at 10:57 am

      They will not abandon their $20 Million per day business and give up their Multi-Billion dollar investments there.

      • Sew

        April 21, 2022 at 3:25 pm

        Why? Cuase you say so?

      • Pay pay pay

        April 21, 2022 at 3:37 pm

        They will pass the savings on to you in the form of sky hitting taxes while people continue to visit them and they still refuse to move from their political position

  • Antonio

    April 20, 2022 at 8:46 pm

    Disney is advocating for little kids to hear sexually inappropriate things from their teachers and for parents not to know about it. They are in the wrong here, and definitely do not deserve special privileges. The fact that Crist is making them out to be the victim in an effort to oppose Desantis is weak and transparent. Regular people are fed up with stuff like this and it is part of the reason Democrats are loosing independents.

    • CW

      April 20, 2022 at 8:58 pm

      Democrats are gaining the independents because people are sick of culture war political theatre bullshit. Nobody but idiots believe that Disney is out to “groom” children into sexually inappropriate activity. Only you far right pearl clutchers believe that, and most of you are pedos yourselves!

      • Antonio

        April 20, 2022 at 9:12 pm

        LOL…You prove my point by insanely attacking and insulting someone you’ve never met and know nothing about. Your unhinged behavior is exactly why Democrats are loosing independents. Disney opposes HB 1557, which prevents teachers from discussing sexual matters (of ANY orientation) with little kids and keeping it secret from their parents. If they oppose that, then they are for sexualizing little kids. There’s videos online of Disney executives doubling down on this after the bill was passed. Centrist regular people like me that are not tribal about political parties can see how wrong this is, and while Republicans are not the solution, they are not unhinged like the Democrats have become, where you must follow the party doctrine, no matter how nuts it is. Don’t believe me? Ask Annette Tadeo or Stephanie Murphy how being a centrist Democrat is working out for them. But sure, Democrats are gaining independents…LOL….Thanks for the evening laugh.

        • RC

          April 21, 2022 at 1:38 am

          HB 1557 is an abomination. The bill is not about discussing “sexual matters” you pervert. It prohibits teachers from discussing “sexual orientation and gender identity”. Why are you sexualizing gender preferences and sexual identity? These things are about how a person feels inside about themselves and others. If a first grade boy says he likes a girl in his class, do you freak out and think he wants to have sex with her? Of course not, so why are you making it sexual when a little girl says she likes a girl in her class? It’s because you people are perverts and see sex in everything. If there is one thing I have found out about Republicans it is that every accusation they make is merely an admission of what they have done, or plan to do. You people are a scary bunch.

          • Antonio

            April 21, 2022 at 10:53 am

            Again, name calling and insults with little, if any, substantive argument…..This is why you are loosing the average citizen. Schools keeping information from parents about their kids? Yeah, no one sane agrees with that. Talking to little kids about sexual orientation and gender identity? Again, no one sane wants teachers to be doing that, especially when you try to keep it from their parents. Even homosexual parents who adopt or are artificially inseminated want their child to develop naturally and not be subjected to talk like that at such a young age. Are there outliers? Of course, but most parents want their children developing naturally over time. The scary bunch are the people that think it is ok for little kids to hear such talk. Again, it’s why independents are running away from Democrats. It’s a shame because this country needs balance, and when one party pulls so far in one direction (say talking about abortion up to right before child birth), it’s inevitable that the other one is going to yank back hard the other way (wanting to ban all abortion). Neither of those options are good. But the Democrat party has pulled so far left, they don’t listen to their moderate politicians, let alone the moderate citizen. And that is why they are loosing regular people that want sensibility in government. You can immaturely call me all the names you want, it doesn’t change the fact that regular people that are not politically tribal are not ok with little kids hearing talk like that.

          • Dennis

            April 21, 2022 at 7:09 pm

            Great post, You own Antonio. He can hug his guns and play fantasy hero until he gets his anonymous confidence back.

        • Yes

          April 21, 2022 at 6:10 am

          You aren’t regular and you aren’t centrist lol

    • CR

      April 21, 2022 at 12:36 pm

      Disney is advocating for their employees, and children who need a safe haven from oppressive parents. The bill merely gives religious zealots a means to sue teachers when there is even a mention of a different lifestyle than what the zealots have convinced themselves is “normal”. Show me where there is an issue with teachers, especially in K-3rd, teaching about anything sexual in nature, or trying to “groom” children into a lifestyle. DeSantis has taken a non-issue and manipulated you into thinking it is rampant and he is your savior. Same with the non-issue of CRT…not being taught in any public school, and never has been.
      If you want to help the citizens of Florida, you will vote this horrible governor out.

    • Kewen Shirley

      April 21, 2022 at 3:05 pm

      You lost me at “loosing” 🤣

    • Republican

      April 22, 2022 at 12:11 pm

      Nope. Sex as in male female. Not sex as in the physical act of sex. Please get that straight.

    • Sherry MacDonald

      April 28, 2022 at 10:00 am

      You Floridians went from Scott, to this twit. Always voting against your own principles… I don’t get it! Not everyone in Florida is rich! And the fact is these losers need the little guy more than they will ever admit. We need to start for using on the problems at hand!
      The people at Disney are not going to walk up to your little three year old and say oh I see you’re dressed as a girl I think you should be a boy. Come on people wake up! How many shows are on television right now with two dads or two moms or whatever. It’s already out there! Disney isn’t doing anything wrong other than disagreeing with DeSantis. Disney world is what made Florida what it is today people would never have come here if Disney world wasn’t here to begin with I’m talking back in the day. And the fact is our politicians were a heck of a lot smarter back then! Disney is a big asset to the State of Florida whether you want to believe it or not. Time to get DeSantis out of here! It’s time to vote in someone who cares about everyone not just the rich folk.

      • Tom

        April 30, 2022 at 5:53 pm

        Sherry such ignorance, your clueless. We are talking about the classroom.
        Only the extreme of the extreme would find fault with America’s Governor over this. K -3, it makes no reference to gender type.
        Disney badly served its employees, and shareholders getting involved.
        Full stop, end of story!

        Disney dismissed the VP public information officer, Geoff Morel. Former news anchor and Obama Adm. acolyte last eve. What a cluster, disaster.

        Disney ain’t going anywhere. Where they going, winter in Colorado? That’s a draw. Please.

        You Floridians care so much much bout your state, really? You want Disney to leave. Nothing like party Manchurians. You people are mental.
        Disney will
        Leave and spend $2 billion to relocate snd move abs rebuild new theme parks, how ignorant are you.

  • Tom

    April 21, 2022 at 10:54 am

    Since they’re so much against government interference in how private businesses run their enterprise, I wonder how democrats feel about the government interfering with Jack Phillips running his bakery in Colorado?

    • No cook

      April 21, 2022 at 3:26 pm

      His bakery can’t bake shit lol

    • Tom

      April 30, 2022 at 5:19 pm

      Fake moniker Tom commentary, not the legend.

  • Itold Usoh

    April 21, 2022 at 11:56 am

    Disney needs to stay in its lane. Fine to lobby on taxes, regulatory, business issues, but K-3 curricula? No. And now, look at the consequences. They’ve taken a pole to poke at a hornets’ nest.

    Who runs their government affairs? I thought Disney was all powerful in Tallahassee. Or does the CEO just ignore what they are saying? This would never have happened under Bob Iger.

    Disney should look to Universal as a model for handling Florida politicians.

    • Comparison

      April 21, 2022 at 3:28 pm

      Universal does not bring in half the money disney does

      I guess it’s like Florida. They can’t win against disney after a while either

      • Jerry

        April 22, 2022 at 10:19 pm

        Disney got too big for themselves. They forgot what state Disney World is in. This isn’t southern California…….and it never will be. If they can’t live with that, Disney is welcome to leave. But we are not going to have our state held hostage by woke super rich executives from California. NO WAY! If Chapek thought he could bully Ron or bully this state in order to teach sex to kindergartners….he’s got a surprise coming. Chapek picked the wrong governor to fight with.

  • tom palmer

    April 21, 2022 at 3:40 pm

    Getting back to the original topic, Gov. DeSantis’ vocabulary
    is Orwellian.

    • Jerry

      April 22, 2022 at 10:23 pm

      …says the party that put fences around the Capitol building, censoring the internet and labeling “misinformation” to any opinion they don’t like, and attempted to force the entire population to get injections. None of that is Orwellian right?

      But yeah….it’s the Republicans that are Orwellian because we don’t want to teach sex to k-3rd graders. That makes us fascists, right?

  • Dan

    April 24, 2022 at 9:42 am

    I’m really sick and tired of all these redneck republicans from the swamps running this state. They have no idea what they are doing, are in totally over their heads and their incompetence is spewing all over this state. Florida grew too fast and these hill-billies have no idea how to handle it.

  • Tom

    April 30, 2022 at 5:15 pm

    Really extreme fabrications by the Camillion, crispy critters.

    Florida is the freest state. It’s record is second to none. America’s Governor led Florida through a 100 yr pandemic, respecting and protecting all individuals liberty.

    Jobs, employment, open schools, teachers/educators pay, public school minority driven scholarships, wages the third highest in America, recaptured jobs pre pandemic, environment protected, and on and on. A study on lockdowns rated Florida’s openness during a record. His rising tide for all, not a segment is prosperity for all.

    Maybe he should inquire on the alleged, supposed not shown tape, his opponent plastered her defense of on her website defending herself. Just saying.

Comments are closed.


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