DeSantis Fires Back at GOP Megadonor’s Disney Criticism

DeSantis Fires Back at GOP Megadonor’s Disney Criticism
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Citadel founder Ken Griffin in file photos. (Justin Kase for The Epoch Times; Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images)
Jack Phillips

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis responded to a multi-billionaire GOP donor’s criticism about how he handled the state’s feud with Disney, coming as the donor said he’s still on the sidelines for the 2024 election.

“I have 6, 5, and 3-year-old kids at home. The idea that we are going to allow a company to come in and try to wreak havoc on our education system, injecting transgender ideology in elementary school, negating parents’ rights, that is non-negotiable for me,” Mr. DeSantis, a GOP presidential candidate, told Fox Business on Wednesday.

His comments were directed toward Citadel founder Ken Griffin, who donated to the Florida governor’s 2022 reelection campaign but said in a recent interview that he won’t back Mr. DeSantis. In part, he cited the governor’s stance toward Disney, even as the company publicly criticized a Florida bill that made it illegal for teachers to instruct young children on gender ideology and sexuality.

“We will stand up for our kids. We will stand up for our parents,” Mr. DeSantis added Wednesday.

In a CNBC interview, Mr. Griffin, who is worth some $35 billion and has donated to numerous Republicans, was more broadly critical of the governor’s 2024 campaign.

“It’s not clear to me what voter base he is intending to appeal to,” he said, adding that “the ongoing battle with Disney, I think, is pointless” and “doesn’t reflect well on the ethos of Florida.”

“I don’t know his strategy,” he said of Mr. DeSantis’s campaign, although he described his first term in office as governor as “phenomenal.”

But Mr. DeSantis responded by saying that if “we can’t get the education right, if we can’t agree as a society that it’s wrong to tell a second-grader that they can change genders, then this country is just not going to succeed.”

“I see our country in decline in a variety of fronts, including in education. We’ve reversed that decline in Florida,” he continued. “And yes, we’ve had to stand up to Disney to do it, but that was the right thing to do.”

Trump Leading

In the interview, Mr. DeSantis did not specifically respond to criticisms of his 2024 campaign. In recent weeks—even after the first GOP debate—polls show that he has failed to pick up momentum against former President Donald Trump, who is by far the leading Republican candidate.
A recent survey that was released by Quinnipiac shows that the Florida governor is polling at around 12 percent as compared to the former president’s 62 percent. Other Republican candidates are still in the single digits, according to the poll.

A Fox News poll last week showed that about 60 percent of Republican voters back President Trump, up from 53 percent in a survey that was conducted before the first debate in August. The Florida governor got about 13 percent, and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy received 11 percent.

As of Wednesday, a RealClearPolitics average of recent polls also shows that President Trump’s lead has widened, with the former commander-in-chief garnering 58.8 percent. Mr. DeSantis has 12.5 percent, Mr. Ramaswamy has 7.5 percent, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley has 5 percent, and the rest have fewer than 5 percent.

After his CNBC interview on Monday, Mr. Griffin released a lengthy statement and suggested that he is still waiting for a candidate to support.

“As the presidential campaigns unfold, I am assessing how the policies of each candidate will address the challenges facing our country,” his statement said. “I care deeply about individual rights and freedom, economic policies that encourage prosperity and upward mobility, all children having access to a high-quality education, ensuring our communities are safe, and a strong national defense.”

Second Debate?

This week, it was reported that President Trump won’t attend the second Republican debate in California, scheduled to be hosted by Fox Business next week. He also did not attend the first debate.

His campaign later confirmed those reports to several news outlets this week.

It came as President Trump indicated that he would go to Detroit next week to speak to striking United Auto Workers (UAW). “The auto workers are being sold down the river by their leadership, and their leadership should endorse Trump,” the former president told NBC News last week.

His comments drew criticism from UAW President Shawn Fain, who alleged that President Trump is part of the “billionaire class” who is allegedly exploiting “workers.” At the same time, on Monday, President Joe Biden’s campaign also assailed the former president’s comments about the strike and accused him of wanting to go to Detroit and “lie to Michigan workers.”

When he skipped the first debate, President Trump told former Fox News host Tucker Carlson that it was unnecessary for him to attend, citing his dominance in the polls.

“Some of them are at 1 and zero and 2 [percent]. And I’m saying, ‘Do I sit there for an hour or two hours?’ Whatever it’s going to be, and get harassed by people that shouldn’t even be running for president? Should I be doing that?” he asked rhetorically in his interview with Mr. Carlson, which was uploaded on social media at the same time as the first debate.

Jack Phillips is a breaking news reporter with 15 years experience who started as a local New York City reporter. Having joined The Epoch Times' news team in 2009, Jack was born and raised near Modesto in California's Central Valley. Follow him on X:
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