Gov. DeSantis downplays Disney federal lawsuit appeal: ‘No basis for this case’

Orlando, Florida, USA - February 9, 2022:  A Walt Disney World entrance arch gate in Orlando, Florida, USA. Walt Disney World is an entertainment resort complex.
DeSantis was back in Orlando to celebrate the anniversary of taking over Disney World's government board.

Gov. Ron DeSantis scoffed at Disney’s threats to appeal the federal lawsuit a Judge recently dismissed, as he touted his reform of Disney World’s government.

“I know they said they’re going to appeal. The reality is is they don’t have a basis for this case,” DeSantis said at a press conference in Lake Buena Vista surrounded by his allies. “Clearly, the Florida Legislature has the right to reform a local government structure, one that had all these problems.”

Last month, U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor dismissed Disney’s free speech lawsuit against DeSantis after Disney accused state leaders of retaliating for speaking out against a controversial Florida law banning classroom lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity in early grades.

“This is an important case with serious implications for the rule of law, and it will not end here,” Disney said after the lawsuit was dismissed.

DeSantis spoke close to the anniversary of signing a law that stripped Disney of its power to control its government board and allowed the state to appoint new members in their place.

“Is it one company gets to call the shots or is it we the people of the state of Florida who gets to call the shots?” DeSantis said. “It needs to be we the people.”

The new Central Florida Tourism Oversight District (CFTOD) — DeSantis’ state board that replaced Disney’s Reedy Creek Improvement District — is an example of good government and positive reform, the Governor said. The state-appointed board members have lowered taxes at the district — primarily Walt Disney World Resort property — and pushed harder for local businesses to get work with the Disney government to even the playing field, officials said.

CFTOD Board Chair Martin Garcia accused Disney’s urban planning of being “to the detriment of the rest of Orange and Osceola counties.”

“Do you wonder why you sit in traffic on I-4 and inch along, and the minute you get in the district, there’s no traffic?” Garcia said. “This district has impacted Orange and Osceola counties, but hadn’t paid the impact fees so that the counties outside of the district could provide the services and the infrastructure that was necessary for all of the residents of Central Florida.”

Florida lawmakers passed laws that allowed the Disney World monorail to be inspected by the state and for the Governor to appoint new government members, but did not push any changes tackling Disney impact fees.

During the press conference, DeSantis called a mom onstage who said she didn’t trust Disney’s content.

In the same room was Bridget Ziegler, a Disney government board member whose threesome with her husband and another woman had gotten national media coverage. Bridget Ziegler’s husband, Christian Ziegler, was investigated for sexually assaulting the other woman, although he has not been charged with a crime. He did, however, lose his job as Florida GOP Chair.

At his press conference, the Governor took a slightly less adversarial tone against the giant entertainment company than his words in the past.

When mentioning Universal’s Epic Universe park and Disney’s talk of expansions, DeSantis said, “We want everyone to be successful.” Then he added, “But we need government to be transparent. We need it to be accountable and we need to answer to we the people, not to one single company, and that’s what we’ve done.”

Florida Politics reached out for comment to Disney World and did not receive a response late Thursday morning. The company has previously touted its value to Florida, reminding lawmakers about its $40 billion economic impact, according to a Disney-commissioned study last year.

Gabrielle Russon

Gabrielle Russon is an award-winning journalist based in Orlando. She covered the business of theme parks for the Orlando Sentinel. Her previous newspaper stops include the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Toledo Blade, Kalamazoo Gazette and Elkhart Truth as well as an internship covering the nation’s capital for the Chicago Tribune. For fun, she runs marathons. She gets her training from chasing a toddler around. Contact her at [email protected] or on Twitter @GabrielleRusson .


  • PeterH

    February 22, 2024 at 12:36 pm

    Disney has a clear advantage with an appeal!

  • Ron DiSaster

    February 22, 2024 at 1:13 pm

    Of course there is a basis for their case, Rontard.

    They exercised their free speech as is their right under the First Amendement of the Constitution, and you punished them for it. You tore up a contract they had with the state long before you were there and for no provable reason other than it was retaliation.

    And don’t give us any more of this “No more Corporate Kingdom” BS. There’s over a thousand special districts in Florida. Reedy Creek was only one of them, and not even the biggest one. That title goes to The Villages, and it sure is strange that you’re not attacking them too. 🧐

  • Sally B

    February 22, 2024 at 6:25 pm

    Disney recently lost in federal court, where its lawsuit against America’s Governor, Ron DeSantis, and the free State of Florida, as well as the Florida Legislature, was summarily dismissed. It will likely happen again. The Left’s days of enjoying the fruits of corporatism and crony capitalism are over. It’s been a long time coming, but the day of reckoning is nigh. Hallelujah!

  • Dont Say FLA

    February 26, 2024 at 7:56 am

    Does Rhonda mean there’s no “bases” or a home plate either, so he has got absolutely no clue what’s going on?

Comments are closed.


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