Call shots by the Governor Ron DeSantis “anti-business and anti-Florida”, Bob Iger showed today that he is not afraid of a street fight with the GOP presidential hopeful.

“We love the state of Florida,” said the disney CEO said today at the company’s annual meeting of shareholders, his first since returning to the top job. “We respect and appreciate what the state has done for us,” Iger added, but it’s been “a two-way street.”

In a sleek opening video, standing relaxed and debonair in front of Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, the CEO, who returned to the helm in November, took some mild jabs at DeSantis’ attempts to strip Disney of its long-running jurisdictional rights. date in Orlando area. ‘This has always been one of my favorite places,’ he said, noting it was a ‘remote swamp’ before Disney stepped in, ‘thanks to those who dare to dream’ , adding, “I’m so proud of Disney’s legacy in Central Florida and around the world.

But in a question-and-answer session with shareholders, Iger stepped up to the political plate and took a big turn.

“A company has a right to free speech, just like an individual,” the CEO said of Disney’s criticism last year of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law. Acknowledging that the company’s response under former CEO Bob Chapek hasn’t been as shrewd as it could have been, the past and current chief fired back at the Florida governor with some of the GOP talking points. DeSantis is “retaliating against us — in effect to punish a company for exercising its constitutional right,” he said. “And that seems really wrong to me.”

He then noted that “diversity is a real priority for us” and expressed his wish that Disney continue to create content that promotes “greater understanding, greater acceptance”.

He also delved into what Disney means to Florida, noting that some “50 million visitors will come through our doors this year, about 8 million from outside the United States and we are the largest taxpayers in the state.” And we plan to invest $17 billion over the next ten years. This means 13,000 new WDW jobs, plus several thousand indirect jobs and even more tax revenue. “Our point is that any action that thwarts these efforts simply to retaliate against a position the company has taken appears not only anti-company, but anti-Florida.”

What a difference a year makes. Today’s meeting follows Iger fending off a proxy battle, conveniently eliminating a thorn in the side called Ike Perlmutter amid a wave of layoffs to streamline the company and apparently reclaim the company’s longstanding special rights to 27,000 acres around Orlando, which Florida lawmakers and DeSantis believed had been neutralized by a law that they adopted last year. However, the Disney-controlled Reidy Creek board, in its last meeting before state appointees stepped in, signed a 30-year development agreement with the company. It hasn’t been made public, but it was public despite the new board not noticing until this month, which left a lot of people scratching their heads and DeSantis livid.

The governor released a letter just ahead of today’s meeting contesting the legality of this last-minute deal and vowing to fight.

It was at Disney’s 2022 annual meeting a year ago, Chapek, under pressure from Disney employees, spoke out for the first time against Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill that prohibits the discussion or mention of sex. orientation in public schools up to third grade.

At the 2021 reunion, a big deal was a Chapek explaining to a sad Girl Scout why she couldn’t see Raya and the last dragon with his troupe because their local theater had not agreed to Disney’s strict rental terms to show the film.