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Disney exec in charge of ‘Don’t Say Gay’ response resigns after just three months

Lily Wakefield April 30, 2022
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Geoff Morrell

Geoff Morrell. (CQ Roll Call/ Tom Williams)

Disney communications exec Geoff Morrell, who helped engineer the company’s disastrous response to Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, has resigned after just three months.

Morrell joined Disney in January, 2022, taking over from Zenia Mucha to lead the company’s communications as chief corporate affairs officer.

During his time at Disney, he helped CEO Bob Chapek engineer the company’s response to Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ legislation, which bans LGBT+ topics in classrooms, after Disney was criticised for its silence on the issue and donations to politicians pushing the bill.

But to say Morrell’s tactics in preserving the company’s image backfired would be a huge understatement.

Following the protests outside theme parks and international condemnation, Morell guided Chapek in crafting a letter to staff in March which was later released to the media.

The underwhelming letter said that “corporate statements do very little to change outcomes or minds”, and insisted that the “biggest impact” Disney could make was by creating “inspiring content”.

According to CNBC, those familiar with the matter said Morrell’s strategy was to avoid setting a precedent that would require Disney to take a stance on other issues in the future, especially human rights in China where Disney has a huge audience.

A Disney holds a sign while protesting outside of Walt Disney World on March 22, 2022 in Orlando, Florida.
A Disney holds a sign while protesting outside of Walt Disney World on 22 March, 2022 in Orlando, Florida. (Octavio Jones/Getty)

But the response prompted employee walk-outs and protests organised by the Disney Do Better group, meaning Chapek was forced to apologise in a desperate attempt to rekindle the company’s pro-LGBT+ image.

Morrell, who previously worked in communications for oil company BP and for the US Department of Defense under George W Bush and Barack Obama, said in a statement: “After three months in this new role, it has become clear to me that for a number of reasons it is not the right fit.

“After talking this over with [Disney CEO] Bob [Chapek], I have decided to leave the company to pursue other opportunities.”

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