The Disney Company opposed Florida’s “Parental Rights in Education” law, also referred to by critics as “Don’t Say Gay.” Disney’s actions sparked calls from conservatives for a boycott of Disney — and a flurry of unfounded or exaggerated claims on social media that the company was suffering declines in subscribers, visitors and stock value.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the controversial “Parental Rights in Education” bill — also known as “Don’t Say Gay” — on March 28. The law, which is set to take effect July 1, prohibits discussion of sexuality and gender identity with students in kindergarten through third grade.
“Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards,” the law states.
Critics of the law say vague language, such as, “in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students” — along with the avoidance of using words such as “gay,” “lesbian,” “transgender” or “nonbinary” — allows the law to cloak harmful effects it could have on members of the LGBTQ community.
Target, Starbucks and more than 200 other companies and organizations have publicly opposed or signed a statement from the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBTQ advocacy group, broadly condemning all anti-LGBTQ legislation.
After the Walt Disney Company faced backlash from employees for not speaking out against the bill, Disney CEO Bob Chapek announced the company’s opposition to the proposed legislation and signed the Human Rights Campaign’s statement.
In addition, Charlee Corra, a Disney heir, came out publicly as transgender while condemning anti-LGBTQ bills and announcing up to $250,000 in donations to the Human Rights Campaign. The amount was later raised to $500,000 by Roy P. Disney, the grandson of Roy O. Disney, a co-founder of the Disney company.
Conservatives then began a movement to boycott Disney, which was followed by posts on social media claiming without evidence that Disney was losing subscribers, visitors and stock market value.
“Disney Plus has had more than 350,000 cancellations in the past five days alone,” read a Facebook post shared on April 12, which included an image of Mickey Mouse snared in a mousetrap.
Another Facebook post shared a screenshot of a now-deleted tweet from Robert Hyde, a Republican U.S. Senate candidate from Connecticut. Hyde’s tweet claimed, “Disney’s stock is down more than 70% and attendance is down more than 55%. 10.1 million people canceled their Disney Plus subscription. Everything woke goes broke. #Groomers.”
Those claims, however, are either highly inflated or unfounded.
Streaming networks — including Disney Plus — don’t typically provide an ongoing count of their total subscribers. The information needed to make the claim that Disney Plus was losing subscribers in a matter of days is not publicly available.
The last time Disney disclosed the number of subscribers on Disney Plus was in its first quarter earnings report for fiscal 2022 released in February. The company reported “a significant increase in total subscriptions across our streaming portfolio to 196.4 million, including 11.8 million Disney+ subscribers added in the first quarter.” The company will disclose its second quarter earnings report on May 11.
While Disney’s stock has declined over the past year, it’s not by “more than 70%” as claimed in posts shared on social media. The company was trading at $131.67 on April 14, down 30% from its 52-week high of $190.40.
The stock has been generally trending down since around September 2020, but since March 10 — when Chapek made a statement against the bill — the trading price has only decreased from 133.64 on March 10 to 130.47 on April 15. That is just a 2% decline in a little over a month.
Attendance at Disney’s theme parks fell an average of 68% during the COVID-19 pandemic. But Disney has been rebounding, according to company newsletters. It reported more than $7 billion in revenue over the first quarter of fiscal 2022, compared to $3.6 billion in the prior-year quarter, and was reaching capacity attendance at some parks in March.
We reached out to Disney for comment on the claims in the social media posts, but we didn’t hear back.
Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on social media. Our previous stories can be found here. Facebook has no control over our editorial content.
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