DES MOINES, Iowa — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis maintained that his tiff with the Walt Disney Company is consistent with his limited government conservative principles.
CNN debate moderator Dana Bash pressed DeSantis Wednesday about his use of state powers to usurp control over Disney’s special district after it publicly opposed the Parental Rights in Education Act legislation he backed.
“The proper role of government if it means anything is to protect our kids, and I’ve stood for the innocence of our kids. It is wrong. It is wrong to sexualize the curriculum,” DeSantis replied.
“It’s wrong to tell a kindergartener like Disney wanted to do that you can change your gender or tell a third grader that you’re born in the wrong body. So I stood up against [that],” he explained.
DeSantis weathered fierce criticism for backing the legislation in 2022. Critics dubbed it the “Don’t Say Gay Act.”
The law restricted classroom legislation of gender identity and sexual orientation up until the third grade. Florida has since moved to bump that threshold up through the 12th grade.
“We took on Disney and we defeated that and we won that fight and our kids are better off now. Nikki Haley sided with Disney. She invited them to South Carolina,” he went on.
To undercut Disney, DeSantis appointed a hand-picked board of the company’s special district which was rebranded into the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District.
At the time, he defended the move arguing that no other company in the Sunshine State enjoyed control over an entire district.
Disney had gotten that special district back in the 1970s because its theme park takes up large swaths of land.
The company has since sued Florida in response and the two sides have been embroiled in litigation in the time since.
CNN hosted the fifth GOP debate from Drake University — the final bout before the Iowa caucuses next Monday.
Former President Donald Trump skipped the debate for a Fox News town hall and biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy missed the cut.