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Geoff Morrell Leaves Disney Three Months After the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Controversy


Disney employee Nicholas Maldonado holds a sign during a protest outside Walt Disney World on March 22, 2022 in Orlando, Florida. Employees are holding a company-wide walkout today to protest the Walt Disney Company’s response to controversial legislation passed in Florida, known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

Octavio Jones | Getty Images News | beautiful pictures

Geoff Morrell, the company’s director of affairs, who helped the architect DisneyThe public reaction to Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law, has been to leave the company.

“After three months in this new role, it became clear to me that for some reason the job was not a good fit,” Morrell said in a letter to his team received by CNBC. “After talking about this with [Disney CEO] Bob [Chapek]I have decided to leave the company to pursue other opportunities. “

Kristina Schake, who Disney rented earlier this month, will lead Disney’s media efforts and report directly to Chapek. Schake will have “oversight of corporate and segment communications and continue to be our primary spokesperson,” Chapek said in a note to Disney employees approved by CNBC.

Morrell’s three-month tenure was tough. He took the job after many years as the chief spokesman for oil, gas and energy giant BP. Prior to that, he was a White House correspondent at ABC News and the chief spokesman for the US Department of Defense under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

According to those who worked with him, Morrell was more transparent in Disney’s communications than his predecessor, Zenia Mucha, who was known to be a staunch defender of Disney’s image.

After starting his work on January 24, Morrell instructed Disney and Chapek to publicly explain why it has not taken a public stance on Florida’s controversial “Don’t Say Gay” law. , which banned some elementary school guidelines on sexual orientation and gender identity. Chapek wrote a letter to employees on March 7 explaining why Disney did not publicly declare condemnation of the act.

“The company’s claims do little to change outcomes or minds,” Chapek wrote. “Instead, they are often weaponized by one side or the other to divide and augment.”

According to people familiar with the matter, Morrell’s thinking is based on setting precedent. He fears that if Disney takes a public stance against “Don’t Say Gay,” the company may also have to openly fight human rights issues in the future, including potential violations. from China, an important market for Disney content. Morrell also fears potential 2024 presidential candidates Donald Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who have supported the bill, will use Disney as a punching bag if the company opposes the bill.

Morrell has been proven right in recent weeks, after Disney quickly reversed its decision to remain silent amid massive protests from Disney employees. Both Trump and DeSantis arrived after Disney’s “Don’t Say Gay” public defiance. DeSantis signed a bill earlier this month that would remove certain privileges granted to Disney over decades in relation to the land around it. Disney World theme park.

But by explaining Disney’s decision not to side with “Don’t Say Gay,” rather than simply not taking a public position, Morrell’s strategy has caused the company to face months of protests. which could have been avoided. Disney employees held walkouts and ran social media campaigns with the hashtag “FireChapek” following the company’s colorway response.

Disney’s brand is arguably its most important asset, and the company has largely avoided public relations mistakes like this in the past. Morrell seems to have failed over the past two months by announcing his immediate resignation.

WATCH: Disney ‘kicks in wasps’ nests, tries to bring California values ​​to Florida, state senator says



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