John Oliver Slams Disney’s ‘Morally Bankrupt’ Backing of Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill

"Last Week Tonight with John Oliver" took aim at Disney CEO Bob Chapek over Florida's "Don't Say Gay" bill.
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, HBO
"Last Week Tonight with John Oliver"

John Oliver has spoken out against Disney’s influence on the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. The “Last Week Tonight” host used the March 13 episode to criticize Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Chapek over his response to the Florida bill that passed the House and the Senate.

Oliver opened by saying that it’s been a “bleak few weeks for the LGBTQ community” before explaining the details behind the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which was passed by Florida’s Republican-held Senate. Officially titled the House Bill 1557, the proposed law prohibits “classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity” in Florida primary schools.

As Oliver added, the bill is “not about sex at all; it’s about denying the existence of gay people.”

The HBO star called it “galling” that corporations like AT&T and Disney have financially supported the bill, noting that over the last two years, the Walt Disney Company has donated nearly $300,000 to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, as well as financially supporting every single sponsor and co-sponsor of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

“Are they morally bankrupt for [donating the money]? Who’s to say? I’ll tell you, I am. I am to say. After all, I’m Zazu,” he said, in reference to his role in Jon Favreau’s live-action remake of “The Lion King.”

Oliver then took aim at “business thumb” Chapek, whose response to the bill included a commitment to continuing to make “diverse stories” that are “more powerful than any tweet or lobbying effort” in support of LGBTQ+ rights.

“That’s obviously nonsense,” Oliver said, before playing a tape from the Disney shareholder meeting where Chapek alleged the company is unaware of specific bill-backers when donating.

Chapek said at the time, “When we donate money to different political candidates, we have no idea how they’re going to vote going forward into the future.”

Oliver slammed the statement, saying, “That is such bullshit, it is actively insulting!”

Per Oliver, Disney should have known what a politician like Dennis Baxley, the leading bill supporter, would vote for since he has been open about legalizing gay conversion therapy.

As for Disney employees, Oliver empathized with the “marginalized creators [that] have made billions of dollars for Disney.”

Oliver summed up, “Now, should it embarrass them that it took them until this week to realize that they shouldn’t take that money and use it to actively undermine those creators’ interests? Who’s to say? I’ll tell you: I am. I’m Zazu, remember, and while I haven’t been invited back for the prequel yet, after tonight I’ve got a pretty good feeling about it.”

Previously, Pixar employees and Disney’s LGBTQIA+ Business Employee Resource Groups wrote respective letters addressed to Chapek citing that the new Florida law is akin to “child abuse.” The Human Rights Campaign also refused a $5 million donation pledge from Chapek.

Chapek issued an apology March 11.

“It is clear that this is not just an issue about a bill in Florida, but instead yet another challenge to basic human rights,” Chapek wrote in a staff memo distributed by Disney. “You needed me to be a stronger ally in the fight for equal rights and I let you down. I am sorry.”

Daily Headlines
Daily Headlines covering Film, TV and more.

By subscribing, I agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

PMC Logo
IndieWire is a part of Penske Media Corporation. © 2023 IndieWire Media, LLC. All Rights Reserved.