Fox News is hyping a new smear campaign from a notorious peddler of disinformation about “critical race theory” (CRT), using leaked videos from a staff meeting at Disney to claim the company is attempting to “sexualize our children” in order to push a “progressive LGBT agenda.”
The videos were posted to Twitter by Chris Rufo, a senior fellow at the conservative Manhattan Institute and a key proponent of panic over CRT. Rufo similarly targeted Disney last year over its policies on anti-racism. This time, Rufo’s fearmongering is in defense of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which was signed into law on March 28. Although the legislation explicitly bans discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in schools between kindergarten and third grade, its vague language would allow the state to limit conversations on LGBTQ issues and history across all grades. As The Trevor Project notes, this law aims at “effectively erasing LGBTQ identity, history, and culture — as well as LGBTQ students themselves.” The bill has been widely condemned by civil rights organizations and the Biden administration.
Disney faced backlash this month after it was revealed the company initially contributed to state politicians responsible for the new bill. At the same time, employees at Pixar accused Disney of censoring LGBTQ storylines in their films. These controversies, along with what was perceived by employees as a poor response from CEO Bob Chapek, lead to a walkout earlier this week by Disney employees, after which Disney came out strongly against the Florida legislation, vowing to help repeal it. The videos Rufo released earlier this week feature Disney executives recounting increasing acceptance of LGBTQ storylines and minority characters, committing to adopting more gender-inclusive language, and condemning the legislation in Florida.
Fox News pundits have widely embraced the discriminatory legislation, framing it as protecting children in Florida from “grooming” – a term referring to the sexual exploitation of minors. The false conflation of sexual orientation and gender identity is a tactic long utilized by bigoted misinformers seeking to sow hatred of the LGBTQ community. In reaction to the videos Rufo released from Disney’s internal meeting, Fox News is now targeting the company with accusations of sexualizing children and pushing a “woke agenda.”
- On Fox & Friends First, Rufo’s footage aired over the chyron: “Videos show Disney execs pushing woke agenda.” Co-host Todd Piro claimed Disney was “playing a dangerous game with its core customer base,” while Fox Business contributor Cheryl Casone asserted Disney was “[going] all the way to the extreme on some social topic of the day.” Piro then attacked Disney’s commitment to gender-inclusive language, claiming, “The company’s brand is based on princesses.”
- On Outnumbered, Fox contributor Tammy Bruce responded to Rufo’s clip of the Disney meeting by defending the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, saying, “Everything you heard there is outrageous. It is untrue. It is a reflection of what I term … malignant narcissism, which is this effort to make everything in the world about you.” Bruce went on to assert that opponents of the bill were “sexualizing children,” further claiming there were “no gay or straight children … there are simply just children. Gender is a concept that children don't even understand or can comprehend.”
- Discussing Disney’s “woke agenda” on Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade called the law “a smart bill” and “another major win for the people of Florida,” claiming opponents of the bill were arguing that “you need your kindergartener talking about sex.” Co-host Ainsley Earhardt agreed that “they’re determined to teach our little kids about this.”
- On The Faulkner Focus, Fox anchor Harris Faulkner said Rufo’s footage “appears to show multiple Disney leadership members pushing a progressive LGBT agenda onto their employees.” Fox News contributor Sean Duffy said the company was attempting to “sexualize our children and our children's childhoods for their own political agenda” and later emphasized his support for the bill, saying, “When you want to sexualize kindergartners, first graders and second graders, third graders, ... we're not going to talk about transgenderism or any sexual topics with really little kids. It's inappropriate.” Duffy also took aim at the video celebrating diverse storylines, claiming Disney was “actually making films that will indoctrinate” children.
- In another segment about Disney’s “woke agenda” on America’s Newsroom, Fox News contributor Joe Concha defended the new law, arguing, “Nowhere in this bill does it say the word gay,” and saying, “I have an 8-year-old girl as well in second grade, do I want her being taught that?” Concha later claimed Disney was part of a “social experiment now that we’re seeing in schools,” including “orientating our kids.”
- In a segment on The Five accusing Disney of “caving to the woke mob,” co-host Greg Gutfeld claimed “woke-ism has this enormous superpower which it can take stuff that you loved, you really loved, and it can turn it to poison,” before defending the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, asserting “If you really want to talk to a 5-year-old or a 7-year-old or an 8-year-old about their sexuality and gender, that’s on you. You’re a pervert. You’re a weirdo. I don’t give a damn if you’re a teacher.”