GOP presidential contenders knock DeSantis over Disney

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Republican presidential candidates Asa Hutchinson and Vivek Ramaswamy on Sunday both took swipes at Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) over his dealings with Disney, as talk of a possible 2024 bid for the Florida governor swirls.

“I don’t like what Disney said about the legislation that I would have supported in Florida, but it’s not the role of government to punish a business when you disagree with what they’re saying or a position that they take,” Hutchinson, the former governor of Arkansas, said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“If that was the view of a Republican, then we’re going to be in all kinds of trouble in our businesses in blue states if they start punishing businesses for taking a more conservative speech or position.”

DeSantis — who hasn’t officially launched a 2024 bid but is considered a top possible contender — has been feuding with Disney after the company spoke out against Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law.  The entertainment giant operates its Walt Disney World theme park near Orlando and is one of Florida’s largest private employers.

“And so I don’t understand a conservative punishing a business that’s the largest employer in the state … We support our industry because it provides jobs. And we’re not dictating to them what their speech is. To me, that’s a conservative position. And you err when you go otherwise,” Hutchinson said.

Conservative entrepreneur Ramaswamy on NBC’s “Meet the Press” said DeSantis “really lost it” in the Disney dispute.

“Here’s where Ron DeSantis really lost it here. He’s gone on the wrong path as he claimed – and this part actually sounded good to me – Disney should have never had crony-capitalist, lobbying-related privileges in the first place. Here’s the part he doesn’t mention. One of those crony-capitalist privileges was … codified into law by none other than Ron DeSantis in 2021,” Ramaswamy said.

Ramaswamy appeared to reference a piece of Florida legislation aimed at keeping internet companies from “silenc[ing] viewpoints they don’t like,” as DeSantis’s office described it when he signed — but the law notably included an exception for companies that own theme parks in the state.

“And so, the irony is Ron DeSantis, who’s now railing against crony capitalism and rolling that back, was the one who actually passed that into law for the case of Disney. So, I think that undermines the credibility of his crusade. I prefer to get to root causes rather than doing political stunts,” Ramaswamy said.

Former President Trump, considered the GOP’s presidential frontrunner for 2024, has also bashed the Florida governor over his stance on Disney, saying earlier this month that DeSantis is “being absolutely destroyed” by the company.

Disney has sued DeSantis, alleging that the Florida governor has engaged in “a targeted campaign of government retaliation” and is harming the company’s business operations. DeSantis has argued that the suit has “no merit” and is politically motivated.

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