May 24, 2024

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ (R) escalating feud with the Walt Disney Co. is earning him free publicity as he weighs a presidential run, but it’s also providing fodder to the Republicans he would be fighting against to clinch the nomination. Former President Donald Trump, the clear frontrunner in early polling, jeered on his Truth Social network Tuesday that “DeSanctus [sic] is being absolutely destroyed by Disney.”

DeSantis threatened on Monday, possibly in jest, that Florida might build a state prison on state land next to Disney World or solicit a rival amusement park if Disney continues to thwart his attempts to take over the park’s surrounding district. He has also threatened to levy new taxes, fees, and regulatory burdens on Disney. CNN anchor Pamela Brown’s panel tried to game out how those threats would work out — and ended up laughing uproariously at DeSantis’ expense. 

“Disney’s next move will be the announcement that no more money will be invested in Florida because of the governor,” Trump wrote. “In fact, they could even announce a slow withdrawal or sale of certain properties, or the whole thing. Watch! That would be a killer. In the meantime, this is all so unnecessary, a political STUNT!”

The Onion piled on, too.

The super PAC supporting Nikki Haley’s presidential campaign mocked the latest bid by DeSantis to “one-up Mickey Mouse after a devastating and embarrassing blow to his efforts to rein in Disney World.” New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R), who has strongly hinted at his own 2024 bid, told CNN that DeSantis’ Disney feud “has gone from kind of going after a headline to something that has devolved into an issue,” and “it’s not good for Gov, DeSantis. I don’t think it’s good for the Republican party.”

“I don’t think Ron DeSantis is a conservative, based on his actions towards Disney,” former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), who’s also considering another bid for the GOP nomination, told Semafor. And “if you can’t see around a corner [Disney CEO] Bob Iger created for you,” you’re “not the guy I want sitting across from President Xi” Jinping of China or Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Wall Street Journal editorial board criticized Trump for siding “with the woke Mickey Mouse to score points over the Florida governor,” but also said DeSantis “attacked the company in Trumpian fashion” so as not to look weak when Disney outmaneuvered him. “Nobody emerges from this looking good,” the editorial board said, and Trump’s attempt to “goad” DeSantis by siding with Iger shows that “his only abiding political conviction is personal advantage.”