By Dawn Chmielewski and Lisa Richwine
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Walt Disney Co’s head of corporate affairs, Geoff Morrell, is leaving the company three months after joining from oil and energy company BP Plc, according to an email on Friday from Chief Executive Officer Bob Chapek.
Morrell’s brief tenure has been marked by controversy over the company’s response to Floridas law barring classroom instruction of sexual orientation and gender identity for some younger students.
“It has become clear to me that for a number of reasons it is not the right fit,” Morrell wrote in a separate email to his staff. “I have decided to leave the company to pursue other opportunities.”
Both emails were seen by Reuters.
Kristina Schake will lead the company’s communications efforts, Chapek said in the email. Her 30-plus years of experience include heading up President Joe Biden’s vaccine education program, as well as communications for Instagram and work in the Obama administration.
Government relations and global public policy will be led by Disney’s general counsel, Horacio Gutierrez.
Disney became the focus of criticism for initially failing to speak out publicly against the Florida legislation, which critics call the Dont Say Gay bill. The company said it worked behind the scenes to influence the legislation, an approach Chapek admitted had failed. He later voiced disappointment with the measure and apologized to the company’s LGBTQ employees for failing to be a “stronger ally in the fight for equal rights.”
When Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed the Parental Rights in Education bill into law on March 28, Disney issued a statement saying it “should never have passed” and said that it should be repealed.
Disney’s public condemnation opened a new front in the nation’s culture wars, with DeSantis signing a bill on April 22 that would strip the company of its self-governing authority at its Orlando-area parks in apparent retaliation.
The company has yet to issue a statement on the new law, which would take effect on June 1, 2023.
(Reporting by Dawn Chmielewski and Lisa Richwine in Los Angeles; Editing by Chris Reese and Matthew Lewis)