Nikki Fried calls Ron DeSantis a ‘dictator’ over Disney fight; governor says bills not ‘retaliatory’

It was Disney that ‘retaliated’ against parental rights law, GOP governor says

Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday that his fight against Disney is not "retaliatory" after Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, a Democratic gubernatorial candidate, accused the governor of seeking "revenge" against the company for not sharing his political views.

Fried, who is seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination to unseat DeSantis, said Florida Republicans are "creating another culture war" against Disney that’s unnecessary and wasteful of taxpayer dollars.


"When you just do policy initiatives based on revenge and being a dictator, the unintended consequences could be severe," she told Fox News Digital in an interview.

Nikki Fried

Florida Agriculture Commissioner and Democratic Candidate for Governor Nikki Fried meets with Black business owners and entrepreneurs at Pots and Pans Cafe Oakland Park on Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2022. (Amy Beth Bennett/Sun Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images / Getty Images)

Fried was referring to two bills passed by the state Senate on Wednesday that target the Walt Disney Company after the company came out against DeSantis’ Parental Rights in Education law banning gender identity instruction in kindergarten through third grade.

The Senate passed the bills after DeSantis on Tuesday added them to a special legislative session about congressional redistricting, FOX 13 reported. One of the bills would dissolve special status granted to the company that essentially allows Disney to self-govern on its large property near Orlando. The other bill would eliminate a carve-out for theme parks in an anti-censorship law passed last year that targeted social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, FOX 13 reported.

Ron DeSantis florida gov

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a press conference at Buc-eeís travel center, where he announced his proposal of more than $1 billion in gas tax relief for Floridians in response to rising gas prices caused by inflation. ((Photo by Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images) / Getty Images)

DeSantis cheered the effort in a fundraising pitch this week, writing that he will "not allow a woke corporation based in California to run our state."

"Disney has gotten away with special deals from the state of Florida for way too long," the email read, Florida Politics reported. "It took a look under the hood to see what Disney has become to truly understand their inappropriate influence."

Fried slammed the effort and said lawmakers should be focusing on "the issues that are actually impacting the people of our state, the things that we talk about every single day – affordable housing, the cost of rent, not being able to, you know, just be able to live here in our state."

"Unfortunately, those are not the issues that they're talking about," she said. "They're creating another culture war for the sake of the governor saying, ‘Look, don't cross me, because this was going to happen.’ That's not how you govern."

"This was a knee-jerk reaction," she continued. "When you just do policy initiatives based on revenge and being a dictator, the unintended consequences could be severe. And so if this was a true policy shift that needs to happen, everybody should take a step back, take a deep breath and actually look at the policy implications of this type of move."

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis

Florida Governor, Ron DeSantis speaks at a press conference at the Eau Gallie High School aviation hangar. (Photo by Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images / Getty Images)

DeSantis’ office pushed back against claims his legislation is based on revenge in a statement provided to Fox News Digital, saying it levels the playing field for all businesses in Florida.


"It is not ‘retaliatory’ to pass legislation that allows all corporations to do business in a fairer environment," the statement read. "The special district associated with Disney has existed for decades, since before Governor DeSantis was born. Special districts could in some instances show favoritism. Should a corporation be serving as a regulator and a business at the same time? Should a corporation get to avoid standard environmental permitting processes? Should a corporation engage in eminent domain? Other businesses don’t get these privileges."

"Moreover, it was unfortunate that Disney decided to wade into a political debate and attempt to overturn a common-sense law, enacted by a duly elected legislature and signed by a duly elected governor, with the support of the vast majority of Floridians, the statement continued. "In fact, it was Disney that ‘retaliated’ by publicly vowing to ‘repeal’ or have the law ‘struck down.’"