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John Oliver eviscerates ‘morally bankrupt’ Disney over Florida’s cruel ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill

Emily Chudy March 14, 2022
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John Oliver drags 'morally bankrupt' Disney over 'Don't Say Gay' bill

John Oliver drags 'morally bankrupt' Disney over 'Don't Say Gay' bill (Last Week Tonight/HBO)

Last Week Tonight host John Oliver has taken aim at Disney over political donations linked to Florida’s infamous ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, calling the company “morally bankrupt”.

Disney – which has since apologised and paused all political donations to Florida – has come under fire for donating to several politicians backing the bill, which would ban school teachers from discussing LGBT+ identities.

Activists outraged by the bill have compared it to Section 28 in Thatcher’s Britain, and Russia and Hungary’s “gay propaganda” bills.

Oliver, who starred in Disney’s live-action remake of The Lion King as Zazu, took aim at corporations who have backed the bill’s donors and sponsors, including Last Week Tonight‘s parent company AT&T and Disney.

“Are they morally bankrupt for doing that? Who’s to say?” Oliver said. “I’ll tell you: I am. I am to say. After all, I’m Zazu.”

Disney CEO Bob Chapek initially defended the donations as the company tells “diverse stories”, which are “more powerful that any tweet or lobbying effort”.

He said in a statement: “We are telling important stories, raising voices, and I believe, changing hearts and minds. Encanto, Black Panther, Pose, Reservation Dogs, Coco, Soul, Soul, Modern Family, Shang-Chi, Summer of Soul, Love, Victor…

“These and all of our diverse stories are our corporate statements, and they are more powerful than any tweet or lobbying effort.”
John Oliver, however, slammed the statement, claiming that several Disney villains – he included photos of Ursula from The Little Mermaid, and Captain Hook from Peter Pan – are coded as gay.

“Is this really a path that you want to go down, Disney?” Oliver said. “Because you’re the same company that’s coded basically every villain in your movies as gay, stereotyped minorities to a breathtaking degree, and had something called a ‘wench auction’ in place at Disneyland until 2018.

“I don’t know if you’ve had a 100 per cent net positive effect here.”

John Oliver also touched on the story of a teacher who, under the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ legislation, would be unable to talk about his partner during lessons about families.

“That kindergarten teacher, who is wearing a f**king Mickey Mouse T-shirt in that photo with his partner, will have been betrayed by a company whose work he loves,” Oliver said.

“Marginalised creators have made billions of dollars for Disney.

“Should it embarrass them that it took them until this week to announce 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.”

Chapek apologised on Friday (11 March), issuing a company-wide email to colleagues saying “I let you down” on the issue.

CNBC San Diego reported that the email read: “You needed me to be a stronger ally in the fight for equal rights, and I let you down.

“I missed the mark in this case but am an ally you can count on – and I will be an outspoken champion for the protections, visibility, and opportunity you deserve.”

More: Disney, don't say gay, Florida, John Oliver

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