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Disney CEO pauses Fla. political donations over 'Don't Say Gay' bill

A copper statue of Walt Disney holding the hand of Mickey Mouse stands in front of Cinderella Castle at the Walt Disney World Resort in September 2021 in Orlando, Fla. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/fff2405a26af433e820f030751f32f43/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
A copper statue of Walt Disney holding the hand of Mickey Mouse stands in front of Cinderella Castle at the Walt Disney World Resort in September 2021 in Orlando, Fla. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

March 11 (UPI) -- Bob Chapek, the CEO of the Walt Disney Company, apologized for the entertainment giant's silence over Florida's controversial "Don't Say Gay" bill and announced a pause in political contributions in the state.

Chapek faced criticism for not speaking out previously, after telling stockholders on Wednesday that the company opposed the Parental Rights in Education bill.

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The Disney boss on Friday also pledged to be a better ally to the LGBTQ+ community in the future, according to an internal memo obtained by Variety and CNBC.

"Thank you to all who have reached out to me sharing your pain, frustration and sadness over the company's response to the Florida 'Don't Say Gay' bill. Speaking to you, reading your messages, and meeting with you have helped me better understand how painful our silence was," Chapek wrote.

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"It is clear that this is not just an issue about a bill in Florida, but instead yet another challenge to basic human rights. You needed me to be a stronger ally in the fight for equal rights and I let you down. I am sorry."

Chapek said all political donations in Florida, home to Walt Disney World, would be paused as the company conducts a review of its political giving framework while increasing its donations to combat similar bills in other states.

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"I truly believe we are an infinitely better and stronger company because of our LGBTQ+ community," Chapek said. "I missed the mark in this case but am an ally you can count on -- and I will be an outspoken champion for the protections, visibility and opportunity you deserve."

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The Human Rights Campaign said Wednesday it won't accept donations from Disney until the LGBTQ+ rights organization sees Disney working to stop laws like the one in Florida. Chapek had said on Wednesday that Disney would donate $5 million to the HRC and other LGBTQ rights groups.

"The Human Rights Campaign will not accept this money from Disney until we see them build on their public commitment and work with LGBTQ+ advocates to ensure that dangerous proposals, like Florida's Don't Say Gay or Trans bill, don't become dangerous laws, and if they do, to work to get them off the books," the organization said in a press statement.

This legislation, HRC said, would censor teachers from talking about LGBTQ+ issues or people, preventing all students from experiencing inclusive classrooms.

RELATED Florida lawmakers pass bill to ban LGBTQ talk in schools for grades K-3

The HRC said Disney took "a regrettable stance by choosing to stay silent amid political attacks against LGBTQ+ families in Florida -- including hardworking families employed by Disney."

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Popular Information, an online news site that tracks corporate political contributions, reported that Disney has donated around $300,000 to Florida politicians who backed the bill.

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