Desantis’ feud with Disney to test First Amendment

STORY: After a year-long war of words between Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Walt Disney, the fight is now going to court.

The entertainment giant earlier this week sued the Republican leader to prevent the state from ending the company's virtual autonomy in central Florida where it has its theme parks.

Disney has accused the governor of retaliation after the business spoke out against DeSantis's efforts to strike discussions of sex and gender from schools.

The lawsuit has now led some to believe that DeSantis may regret his verbal attacks on the media company.

Kendrick: “Disney does have a strong case…”

Leslie Kendrick is the director of the Center for the First Amendment at University of Virginia School of Law

“…Disney has essentially a special relationship with the government of Florida, has a deal that not everyone has, although there are many other entities that have these that have enjoyed special tax districts that are similar to what Disney has enjoyed. [FLASH] But the government can't condition you keeping that benefit on your political views. "

The 73-page lawsuit comes a year after the company criticized a Florida law banning classroom discussion of sexuality and gender identity with younger children, prompting DeSantis to repeatedly attack "woke Disney."

Disney said DeSantis' actions amounted to a "targeted campaign of government retaliation."

“The reason we have the five freedoms of the First Amendment is primarily to keep a check on people in power."

Ken Paulson is a First Amendment expert at Middle Tennessee State University:

"If our government abuses its power, we have the free speech right to call them out. We have the free press right to investigate and report on them. We have the right to assemble and raise our voices in protest. And we have the right to petition government for redress of grievances. Four of the five freedoms in the First Amendment are designed to keep government honest and to keep those in charge from using their power to violate our collective rights under the Bill of Rights.”

DeSantis: "I don't think the suit has merit. I think it's political."

DeSantis has called Disney's lawsuit a politically motivated attack and accused the company of lacking accountability.

The governor's spokesman said on Wednesday that his office was unaware of any legal right that allows a company to operate its own government or maintain special privileges, a reference to the decades-old district that is home to Disney World.

For Disney to prevail, a jury would have to find a connection between the company's comments and the changes to the development district, renamed under DeSantis' control as the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District.