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FIRST ON FOX: Democratic Colorado Gov. Jared Polis and Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis traded words over the latter’s push for legislation targeting Disney.
Polis criticized Florida in a Tuesday tweet over his support of the state legislation stripping Disney of its special self-governance powers and for DeSantis saying he was looking into legislation regarding Twitter’s poison pill to Elon Musk’s offer.
“Florida’s authoritarian socialist attacks on the private sector are driving businesses away,” Polis tweeted. “In [Colorado], we don’t meddle in affairs of companies like [Disney] or [Twitter].”
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis speaks during a news conference about Colorado offering coronavirus vaccinations to children, Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)
“Hey [Disney] we’re ready for Mountain Disneyland and [Twitter] we’re ready for Twitter HQ2, whoever your owners are,” the Democrat governor continued.
Polis spoke with Fox News Digital in a Thursday phone interview to discuss his tweet, during which he said DeSantis is “welcome to disagree” with any company and that he believes “when government starts threatening private companies with retribution based on their free speech, that takes us down the road towards authoritarianism.”
“I think it’s important that we can create a culture that goes against this kind of cancel culture that we’re seeing,” Polis said. “And just because a company has a viewpoint you don’t like doesn’t mean that that company should be penalized by politicians, right?”
“Consumers, absolutely,” the Colorado governor continued. “You can choose not to go to Disneyland. You can choose to buy or not buy whatever product you want. But where it becomes inappropriate is where government leaders say we’re specifically running laws that penalize your company because we don’t like the way you’ve exercised your free speech.”
U.S. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando, Florida, U.S. Feb. 24, 2022. (REUTERS/Octavio Jones)
Polis warned that if Florida “targets specific companies with legislation to hurt them because of their political viewpoints,” the Sunshine State could see “see a mass exodus of companies.”
The Democrat governor also said that he believes “the best balance for a free market economy is to respect that there’s a variety of voices of political opinions, and no person or company should be singled out because of their ideology or belief and specifically targeted by a bill that’s really anti-business.”
DeSantis spokeswoman Christina Pushaw pushed back against Polis’ comments in a Thursday email to Fox News Digital, saying, “Floridians, many of whom have fled from socialist countries like Cuba and Venezuela, understand what socialism is and is not.”
“It would be prudent for all politicians to educate themselves on the definition of socialism before weaponizing such baseless allegations,” Pushaw wrote. “Socialism IS: an authoritarian system where the state controls the means of production and the entire economy.”
“Socialism is NOT: [p]assing legislation to create a more even playing field for all businesses [or] [s]elling shares of a corporation due to evidence that corporation is not acting in shareholders’ best interests and therefore creates unnecessary risks to investors,” she continued.
Pushaw said that DeSantis “has consistently supported a more level playing field for all businesses in Florida” and that it is “not ‘retaliatory’ to pass legislation that allows all corporations to do business in a fairer environment.”
Fireworks go off around Cinderella’s castle during the grand opening ceremony for Walt Disney World’s Fantasyland in Lake Buena Vista, Florida Dec. 6, 2012. (REUTERS/Scott Audette/File Photo)
The Florida governor’s spokeswoman also said DeSantis’ proclamation “at the start of this special session called on the legislature to examine the existence of all special districts” and that “Disney benefits from one of these special districts.”
“The special district associated with Disney has existed for decades, since before Governor DeSantis was born. Special districts could in some instances show favoritism,” Pushaw wrote. “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,” she continued. “In fact, it was Disney that ‘retaliated’ by publicly vowing to ‘repeal’ or have the law ‘struck down.’”
She also pointed to DeSantis’ Twitter comments from his Wednesday press conference, during which the governor criticized Twitter’s board of directors for accepting the “poison pill” offer to sink Musk’s bid and pointed out that Florida’s pension fund had Twitter shares.
“We have people that run the fund, but nevertheless, it [Twitter] hasn’t exactly been great and returns on investment. It’s been pretty stagnant for many, many years,” she said. “I mean, to me, I think that that’s probably an injury to the fund. So we’re gonna be looking at ways that the state of Florida potentially can be holding these Twitter board of directors accountable for breaching their fiduciary duties.”
This April 26, 2017, file photo shows the Twitter app icon on a mobile phone in Philadelphia. ((AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)
The Florida Senate passed a bill 23-16 on Wednesday that revokes the special self-governing status that Disney has held for the past half-century. The Florida House passed the bill on Thursday,
The special status, known as The Reedy Creek Improvement Act, was signed into law in May 1967 by Gov. Claude Kirk in response to lobbying efforts by Disney. The entertainment giant proposed building a recreation-oriented development on 25,000 acres of property in a remote area of Central Florida’s Orange and Osceola counties, which consisted of 38.5 square miles of largely uninhabited pasture and swampland.
The bill’s passage came after a feud between Disney and Florida Republicans over the state’s parental rights in an education bill.
Fox News Digital’s Andrew Mark Miller contributed reporting.