Walt Disney Co. DIS and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis are locked in an acrimonious battle for over a year now, with the fracas now precipitating into a legal tussle.
The entertainment giant may be clearly at a disadvantage in the unsavory development, say legal experts.
What Happened: DeSantis, who has thrown his hat into the presidential primary ring, has lost no opportunity in his campaign trail to take aim at Disney. He has been accusing Disney of promoting “sexualization of children.”
For the unversed, after the Florida Senate passed legislation to limit instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation for kindergarten children up to the third grade in March 2022, Disney voiced its opinion against the law.
The “Don’t Say Gay” law set Disney and DeSantis on a warpath as the latter announced measures to curb the special privileges Walt Disney World enjoyed in the state. Disney quickly retorted by accusing DeSantis of witch-hunting.
The company filed a lawsuit against DeSantis in the federal court in Tallahassee in late April 2023.
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Tall Ask For Disney: Disney is forced to remain silent on DeSantis’ “sexualization accusations” and has limited options before it in this regard, Business Insider reported.
Disney may not file a defamation lawsuit against DeSantis, legal experts reportedly said. “The US Constitution protects people’s right to speak their opinions even if they’re false and harmful,” free speech experts reportedly said.
In order to have a strong case, Disney may have to prove “DeSantis made these statements with reckless disregard for the truth, or knew they were lies when he spoke, and those are very hard to do,” David Logan, an expert on defamation and professor at the Roger Williams University School of Law, Business Insider reported.
Disney is likely to have to simply put up with being a “whipping boy” with “almost no recourse.”
Giving another rationale that could restrain Disney, another legal expert said waging a war with DeSantis on the defamation could put more attention on DeSantis’ statements.
Experts also noted that a defamation lawsuit would trigger what is called discovery, which requires both parties to show each other the evidence they have. Under such a scenario, Disney may be pushed to the situation of defending its internal communications or business practices.
Disney closed Monday’s session at $90.50, up 1.37%, according to Benzinga Pro data.