Disney CEO Addresses Political Bias, Gender Ideology at Shareholder Meeting

Disney CEO Bob Iger defended the iconic company from accusations that it is politically biased in favor of progressivism at the annual meeting of shareholders on Wednesday.

The comments were in response to a question from a shareholder and come as the company has faced fire from the right, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, among others.

“Is it possible for Disney to stay out of political and social agendas and just provide entertainment?” one shareholder asked.

Iger responded with a lengthy statement about having a positive impact on the world and inspiring future generations before adding: “But we know our job is not to advance any kind of agenda. So as long as I’m on the job I’m going to continue to be guided by a sense of decency and respect and we will always trust our instincts.”

At one point during Wednesday’s meeting, a girl who began transitioning to a boy at age 16 with puberty blockers and a double mastectomy, then de-transitioned, blamed Disney and others in the media for her body being “irreversibly damaged.”

Disney CEO Bob Iger
Disney CEO Bob Iger attends the Oscar Nominees Luncheon in California, on February 12, 2024. Iger made several comments at the company’s annual shareholder meeting on April 3, 2024.

Photo by VALERIE MACON/AFP via Getty Images

The woman, Chloe Cole, is an advocate with a group called Do No Harm and appeared by phone to advocate for a proposal by the National Legal and Policy Center to compel Disney to pay for employee de-transitioning care, and her plea included a reference to The Little Mermaid.

“Mr. Iger, Disney, under your watch, is pushing the limited agenda of gender ideology. Disney has become the Ursula that is stealing the voices of thousands of little Ariel’s across the world by telling us we can be something that we can never become. The lawsuits are coming, sir.”

Disney shareholders voted against the proposal. When asked for comment on the proposal, Disney pointed to a statement in their proxy filing, calling the proposal “unnecessary” touting its “commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.”

The political back-and-forth came moments after Disney successfully beat back a proxy battle with Nelson Peltz and his Trian Fund Management that would have reshaped Disney’s board of directors.

In part, Peltz had argued that Disney had gone “woke.” His effort to force himself and some of his allies onto Disney’s board arguably took a hit when he told the Financial Times two weeks ago: “Why do I have to have a Marvel that’s all women? Not that I have anything against women, but why do I have to do that? Why can’t I have Marvels that are both? Why do I need an all-Black cast?”

Peltz was joined by former Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter, though on Wednesday shareholders voted to reelect Disney’s full board as is, with not additions or subtractions.

Another ally of sorts was Musk, who said that while he’s not a shareholder he might become one should Peltz succeed. In December he posted to his X platform: “Disney has a major content problem. Almost their entire upcoming slate is unwatchable. They are the world’s biggest example of go woke, go broke lol.”

Since that post, though, shares of Disney have climbed 29 percent, likely contributing to Wednesdays’ proxy battle victory over Peltz and Perlmutter.

Disney shareholders on Wednesday also beat back a couple of proposals from conservative groups hoping to discourage the company from entering into politically charged battles in the so-called culture war.

Scott Shepard of the Free Enterprise Project touted his group’s proposal that Disney refrain from charitable donations to partisan charities by telling Iger that “making Disney synonymous with force-feeding radical gender ideology to small school children and then hiding the results from parents would send Disney’s core audience flooding away.”

Shareholders voted against the FEP proposal, and they also voted against a left-leaning one that sought to make sure Disney does not support groups and candidates that downplay climate change or are anti-abortion.

Disney has been fighting against conservatives who have accused the entertainment giant of having an agenda, particular when it comes to gender—John Nolte at Breitbart News, for example, has been referring to the company as the “Disney grooming syndicate”—for several years.

Iger also recently settled a dispute with DeSantis over Florida’s bill that outlawed gender studies until after the third grade, which critics called the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. Iger said Wednesday that the settlement “will actually enable us to pursue the kinds of significant investment in our Florida parks.”

The shareholder meeting comes the same week a new initiative dubbed the 1792 Exchange released a database that tracks alleged political bias at Fortune 250 companies.

According to 1792, of the $3.7 million in political donations made by Disney’s top executives, 76 percent went to Democrats, as did 98 percent of Iger’s personal donations.