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Disney CEO Bob Iger has hit back at claims by GOP presidential candidate and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis that the company “sexualizes children.” DeSantis spoke at a town hall in New Hampshire in June when he stated, “We’ve put [Disney] on a pedestal — in the past, it has been like the all-American company. But they’ve really embraced the idea of getting sexualized content in the programming for young kids. And that is just a line that I am not willing to cross.” The governor and Disney have butted heads in the last year when Iger’s predecessor, Bob Chapek, was CEO of the company. DeSantis signed legislation prohibiting the teaching of sex education and gender identity to students from Kindergarten to 3rd grade throughout the state, which the House of Mouse openly opposed. The face-off led to the company losing its special tax status and self-governing Reedy Creek Improvement District. Bob Chopek later left his position as CEO, with Iger returning and now being signed with the company through 2026. 

In an interview with CNBC, Iger pushed back against DeSantis’s claims. “We are a pre-eminent entertainer in the world, and we’re proud of our track record there. The notion that Disney is in any way sexualizing children, quite frankly, is preposterous and inaccurate,” he said. He also stated that the company’s pushback against DeSantis’s legislation was an issue of the First Amendment, not sexualizing children. “We have filed a lawsuit to protect our First Amendment rights there and to protect our business, frankly,” he said. 

 Parents Television and Media Council’s (PTMC) vice president, Melissa Henson, remained skeptical of Iger’s claims in an episode of “Quick Start” with CBN. “It’s false on the face of it. There are plenty of examples. Even going back a decade or more, I’ve had parents complaining to me about the way the Disney series is always about romantic relationships, even with 10-, 11-, and 12-year-old kids. That should not be the primary occupation or obsession of a 10-, 11-, or 12-year-old child,” she said. “It’s just absolutely ridiculous for Bob Iger to say, ‘We don’t sexualize kids.’ They do, and that’s a huge part of the reason families are leaving Disney in droves.” Henson had previously expressed concerns last August on “The Plugged in Show,” lamenting the company’s decision to add R-rated material on its Disney+ streaming service. Despite parental controls, Henson warned against the dangers the previously “family-friendly” streaming service was bringing to children. 

In March of 2022, Christopher Rufo released internal Disney videos of Disney Television Animation executive producer Latoya Raveneau discussing how she inserts a “not-at-all-secret gay agenda” in the programming for children. Karey Burke, Disney’s general entertainment content president, also stated in the video that her goal was to make at least half the characters in the company’s productions LGBTQIA and racial minorities by year’s end. A number of Disney’s recent films have included LGBTQ+ characters or storylines, including “Lightyear,” “Elemental,” and “Strange World.” Additionally, Disney announced that it would create a new Disney+ series called “Pauline,” based on a German series where an 18-year-old girl has a one-night stand, gets pregnant, and finds out her lover is the Devil. The show will currently only run in Germany per the company. 

These moves have seemingly backfired on the company, with one analysis stating the company had lost over $900 million at the box office. Disney theme park attendance has also been staggeringly low. Speaking to CBN, Mike Signorelli, pastor of V1 Church in New York City, stated it is a calculated move by the company that viewership would eventually be more left-leaning. “Disney is betting on the fact that the world is going to go in that direction and that they’ll lose finances in the short term, but then they’ll gain in the long term,” he said. 

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