STORY: Just days after Disney sued Florida Governor Ron DeSantis in federal court, accusing the governor and his supporters of retaliation for opposing the state’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill…
A district board appointed by DeSantis will now countersue…
"Since Disney sued us. Yes, we didn't sue Disney. Disney sued us. We have no choice now but to respond.”
Martin Garcia is the Chairman of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight Board:
“This is why we call today's meeting to authorize legal action in response to Disney's federal lawsuit. This district will seek justice in state court here in central Florida, where both it and Disney reside and do business."
The decision - announced Monday - further escalates tensions between the entertainment giant and the state of Florida.
The skirmish began last year after Disney criticized a Florida measure banning classroom discussion of sexuality and gender identity with younger children.
Florida lawmakers responded by passing legislation that ended Disney's virtual autonomy in central Florida where the Disney World theme parks attract millions of visitors each year.
In the lawsuit, Disney accused DeSantis and his supporters of illegally using the state government to punish the company for voicing an opinion that should be protected by free-speech rights… saying (quote): "The government action was patently retaliatory, patently anti-business, and patently unconstitutional"...
"No corporation is above the law and the people of this state”
DeSantis, a Republican who is expected to soon declare that he will run for U.S. president, at a press conference Monday said Disney is not entitled to special treatment.
“It is wrong for one corporation to basically corrupt the local government, run it as their own fiefdom, be exempt from laws, have all kinds of benefits that nobody else has.”
PAULSON: "You know, in the history of American politics, there have been many efforts to punish corporations and individuals for things they have said that troubled whoever was in charge. It has seldom been done so inartfully. and so obviously, as in this case.”
Ken Paulson is a First Amendment expert at Middle Tennessee State University:
PAULSON: “Typically, you know, there is payback and it's subtle and behind the scenes and the people who are being retaliated against know it's happening, but there's no way to document that's a real motive. In this case, Governor DeSantis has made this a campaign theme. It's in his autobiography. He's tried to raise funds around it. It could not be more obvious that when the Disney CEO questioned the Don't Say Gay law, it was time to open up the ammunition on Disney."
But as the battle has intensified, it has brought mounting political risk for DeSantis -- Republican rivals like former President Donald Trump slammed the governor's stance, saying on social media that he "is being destroyed by Disney."