Bob Chapek, the CEO of Disney, apologised on Friday to the company’s LGBTQ+ employees for his widely-criticised public response to the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill in Florida.
“It is clear that this is not just an issue about a bill in Florida, but instead yet another challenge to basic human rights. You needed me to be a stronger ally in the fight for equal rights and I let you down. I am sorry,” wrote Chapek in an email addressed to all Disney employees, “but especially our LGBTQ+ community.”
He further announced that the company will pause all political donations in Florida.
Disney had drawn criticism for donating money to the sponsors of the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill. The controversial legislation that was recently passed in Florida limits discussions on sexual orientation and gender identity in schools.
Disney was called out for remaining silent on the issue and the CEO had sent out a company-wide email on Monday, expressing the company’s “unwavering commitment to the LGBTQ+ community.”
Following the passing of the bill, Chapek had also spoken about the company’s opposition to the legislation during a shareholders meeting on Wednesday. He had further pledged $5 million to the Human Rights Campaign and other LGBTQIA+ rights organisations.
However, this was seen as a soft response both by outsiders and those within the company.
The Human Rights Campaign announced that it would refuse the donation until Disney took “meaningful action” against Florida’s legislation.
And a letter from the LGBTQIA+ employees of Pixar accused Chapek of not taking a hard stance in support of the LGBTQIA+ community throughout the shareholders meeting. Instead, there was an attempt “to placate both sides” and hateful messages shared during the question and answer portion of the meeting were not condemned, they added.
The letter also said Chapek’s assertion of support “rang hollow” when executives at Disney have been actively censoring LGBTQIA+ content in Pixar films.
The employees called for Disney’s executives to “immediately withdraw all financial support from the legislators behind the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill” and to “fully denounce this legislation publicly” to make amends for their financial involvement.
In his email on Friday, Chapek announced that Disney will pause all political donations in Florida until it restructures the framework of its political contributions.
He further wrote, “I truly believe we are an infinitely better and stronger company because of our LGBTQ+ community.”
“I missed the mark in this case but am an ally you can count on — and I will be an outspoken champion for the protections, visibility, and opportunity you deserve,” Chapek concluded.