November 30, 2023

Disney Admits to Prioritizing Politics Over Profits

The company does not say they are deprioritizing or changing their “social goals” to ensure they don’t threaten shareholders.

By Joseph Backholm

The Walt Disney Company has been at the forefront of culture wars in recent years. Many became aware of their left-wing political proclivities when they aggressively opposed legislation in Florida that would prohibit schools from giving lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity to children in kindergarten through third grade. The bill, which enjoyed broad public support (even among Democrats), was dishonestly described by progressive activists as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill simply because it prohibited activists from proselytizing young children.

In truth, Disney has seen itself as a political force for a long time. Video of staff meetings showed the company’s creators admitting the purpose of their content was to advance the values and frameworks of the sexual revolution.

Disney’s decision to publicly oppose Florida’s parental rights law led to calls for boycotts and an immediate 5% decline in the company’s stock price. Some studies have found the boycotts have had a material economic impact on the company while others have found no impact. Regardless, according to recent Security and Exchange Commission filings, Disney seems to be accepting that their political convictions are going to cost them money and they are fine with that.

As a publicly traded company, Disney is required to release a “Form 10K” to provide transparency about past, current, and future business prospects. CEO Bob Iger must take these documents seriously because they can be held legally liable by shareholders if they are found to have misled the public. This prospect of legal liability is part of what makes Disney’s recent statements somewhat shocking. In discussing risk factors that could affect future business, the company said:

“We face risks relating to misalignment with public and consumer tastes and preferences for entertainment, travel and consumer products, which impact demand for our entertainment offerings and products and the profitability of any of our businesses.”

In isolation, this statement isn’t cause for alarm. The fact is, most companies face the risk of creating products the public doesn’t want. But they go on to clarify why they think there could be a disconnect between the company and their customers.

“Further, consumers’ perceptions of our position on matters of public interest, including our efforts to achieve certain of our environmental and social goals, often differ widely and present risks to our reputation and brands.”

Many Disney shareholders will be surprised to learn that Disney considers their “environmental and social goals” to be a liability. Notably, the company does not say they are deprioritizing or changing their “social goals” to ensure they don’t threaten shareholders. Instead, they put shareholders on notice, effectively saying, “Our political goals are going to alienate millions of customers and that could hurt the stock price.” Now, if Disney’s political activism does hurt their stock price and shareholders sue the Disney board for failing to prioritize the interests of shareholders, the Disney board can point to this language and say, “told you so.”

Whether this message will be received among the Disney shareholders is yet to be seen, but there may be something the church can learn in all of this. The leadership of Disney just said in writing that they are more committed to ESG, LGBT, and DEI than they are to MONEY. They have counted the cost of serving the rainbow gods and are willing to pay, whatever it may be.

Meanwhile, the church, in significant ways, is counting the cost and looking for a truce to see if there’s any way to avoid paying it. Paul exhorted us to share in the sufferings of Christ in order that we may also share in his glory (Romans 8:17), but for the most part we are looking to avoid the suffering. Of course, this is a relatable and virtually universal human temptation. This was Peter’s problem when he denied Christ three times the night he was crucified. He wanted to be identified with Jesus when it was popular, but suddenly it had become risky. Christians in 21st century America can relate.

We all see that we are in a conflict, but we must understand that conflicts of this kind are almost always won by those who are most committed — and commitment is always demonstrated through sacrifice. Disney and many others on the Left have shown they intend to be more committed to the cause than to comfort. They just told their shareholders they’re expecting to sacrifice profit in order to win the culture wars. We don’t need more Disneys, but we do need a church that is just as committed to the truth as Disney is to the lie.

Joseph Backholm is Senior Fellow for Biblical Worldview and Strategic Engagement at Family Research Council.

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