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Gavin Newsom heckles Ron DeSantis over latest Disney power struggle, on the Florida governor’s home turf

California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, criticized Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, over his approach to Walt Disney World.California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, criticized Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, over his approach to Walt Disney World.

Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images, Ted Shaffrey/AP Photo, Octavio Jones/Getty Images

  • California Gov. Gavin Newsom was in Florida on Saturday.
  • He spoke with Insider about the battle between DeSantis and Disney World. 
  • “There’s a new sheriff in town. It’s Mickey Mouse, back on top,” Newsom said.

PALM BEACH, Florida — Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom of California praised Walt Disney World for its “masterclass” of putting Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida “back in his place” after the company created a loophole to maintain control of its land. 

“I guess there’s a new sheriff in town,” Newsom told Insider on Saturday, in a not-so-subtle reference to a comment DeSantis made when he appointed a new board to oversee Disney’s district.

“It’s Mickey Mouse, back on top,” Newsom added.

The Walt Disney Studios is headquartered in Burbank, California, but the company holds powerful sway in Florida through the jobs and tourists Disney World brings. News broke this week that a law giving the Florida governor power to take over Disney World’s governing board is likely toothless. 

But the battle is far from over: DeSantis has promised, “You ain’t seen nothing yet,” and the state’s attorney general demanded texts and emails about Disney’s maneuver with former board members. Current board members are also meeting with attorneys. 

Taryn Fenske, the spokesperson for DeSantis, said the agreement Disney brokered “may have significant legal infirmities that would render the contracts void as a matter of law.”

During a wide-ranging interview, Newsom told Insider he was certain DeSantis would retaliate, saying he’s “incapable of not.” But he argued the Disney maneuver hurt the governor politically, at a time when he appears to be slipping in the polls when placed in a hypothetical 2024 matchup for the Republican nomination for president. 

“It’s a bit of a yellow flag, if not a red flag, for DeSantis and a very perilous time for him politically, too, because he’s struggling right now,” Newsom said, calling the national attention to DeSantis an “over-hype.” 

California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks during a news conference, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks during the inaugural Moms For Liberty Summit.Newsom said he had an “emotional response” to hearing about DeSantis’ threat to the Special Olympics.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images, Octavio Jones/Getty Images

DeSantis appeared in New York on Saturday evening

DeSantis has been doing a book tour that is widely considered to be a soft launch for a 2024 presidential run. As part of that tour, he often talks about his feud with Disney. His next stop is in Long Island, New York. 

The Florida governor made an example of Disney after its leaders said they would work to repeal the Parental Rights in Education Act, the legislation that Democrats and LGBTQ-rights groups have derided as “Don’t Say Gay” because it limits classroom instruction about gender identity and sexual orientation. 

In response, DeSantis took aim at Disney’s special tax district, one that essentially allows it run its own government in an arrangement that doesn’t apply to other theme parks. Disney was free to take a position on the bill but “they are not free to force all of us to subsidize their activism,” DeSantis has said in explaining his position. 

He and the Republican-controlled legislature first tried to dissolve Disney’s special district last year, but when it was revealed that might result in county residents paying higher taxes, he signed a bill into law this year to sub-out the governing board. This week, it appeared Disney set up a previous agreement that defanged the new board.

Newsom accused DeSantis of engaging in the feud with Disney to draw attention, and of showing “arrogance” and a “semi-authoritarian bent” in his “overreach” policies. He said Disney was defending itself from DeSantis’ “assault on their private free expression as a corporate citizen.”

“It’s not just folks in the classroom who have to worry about what they say, but in the boardrooms, they’re trying to ban not just books, but speech,” Newsom said, referring to the removal of certain books in Florida classrooms that DeSantis has defended by broadcasting some of their content

Asked about Newsom’s latest interview remarks, the governor’s office pointed to comments DeSantis made previously. Speaking about the Parental Rights law during a book tour event in Georgia on Thursday, DeSantis said, “My job is to stand up for the children of my state.”

The governor also has said he thinks it’s appropriate for state governments to intervene in “woke” business practices to “give space to the individual citizen to be able to participate in society to be able to speak his or her mind.”

DeSantis and Newsom — darlings of the right and left, respectively — have frequently hit at each other over policies on crime, COVID-19, abortion, and LGBTQ rights. A year ago, Newsom urged Disney to gut its plan to relocate 2,000 employees from California to Florida over the Parental Rights law.

Newsom met with Insider in a meeting room at the oceanfront Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa, where the Democratic Governors Association was having a conference. Newsom is DGA’s policy chair.

Democratic governors frequently criticize DeSantis’ policies in Florida, and DeSantis last month mocked people who do so yet “end up being spotted on the beach somewhere vacationing in Florida.” The Palm Beach region is a draw for political events on both sides of the aisle because it’s chock full of high-dollar donors.

Newsom told Insider he was in Florida “to remind people about how bad the elected officials are.” 

He’ll be going to other red states next, including Arkansas, Mississippi, and Alabama to promote his new political group, the Campaign for Democracy, that fights looser gun laws, abortion restrictions, and limits on LGBTQ rights. 

The DGA conference was less than 7 miles south of Mar-a-Lago, the private club where former President Donald Trump lives. Trump was indicted Thursday, but Newsom said he wanted to reserve comment until reading the indictment, which is sealed. 

Newsom otherwise had some kind words about Trump, praising him for his accessibility and for supporting California during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As for a potential 2024 GOP nomination contest between the former president and DeSantis, Newsom predicted Trump would “clean his clock.” 

Read the original article on Business Insider
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