Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) on Tuesday knocked Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) over his back-and-forth with Disney, arguing the crusade against the company is not fit for a Republican.
“I don’t think Ron DeSantis is a conservative based on his actions towards Disney,” Christie said in an interview with Semafor Principals.
“Where are we headed here now, that if you express disagreement in this country, the government is allowed to punish you? To me, that’s what I always thought liberals did. And now all of a sudden here we are participating in this with a Republican governor.”
DeSantis — who hasn’t declared an official bid but is widely considered a top 2024 contender for the GOP’s presidential nomination — has been feuding with Disney, which operates the Walt Disney World amusement park near Orlando.
The Florida governor has sought to punish the company for objecting to the state’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law, moves that Disney CEO Bob Iger has called “anti-business” and “anti-Florida.”
DeSantis had sought to replace the board that oversees Disney’s Florida self-governance with one loyal to his administration, but the previous body essentially handed all authority back to the corporation on its way out the door, further angering the governor.
DeSantis on Monday said that the state could consider building a prison or potentially another amusement park next to land owned by Disney.
“For him to have taken the action he took against Disney and to not have foreseen that Disney was going to do what they did in response, which was to completely take over the millions and millions of acres and the zoning decisions on that before they got the authority, well, I’ll tell you this much. That’s not the guy I want sitting across from President Xi [Jinping] and negotiating our next agreement with China,” said Christie, who is also believed to be eyeing a potential 2024 White House bid.
“Or sitting across from [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and trying to resolve what’s happening in Ukraine. If you can’t see around a corner that Bob Iger creates for you, I mean, I don’t think that’s very imposing.”
Christie on Tuesday stressed his stance that the government should “stay out of the business of business” and that a Republican eyeing the Oval Office should be able to manage “the appropriate use of governmental power” and to look ahead at the implications of that use.
The former New Jersey governor also questioned why DeSantis seems intent on punishing “a place that creates enormous tax revenue” and tourism for the state.
If Florida was dealing instead with a hypothetical in which Disney decried a piece of legislation as “too liberal,” and a Democrat like former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist had then “used the government to bang on Disney,” Christie said, “Republicans all across the country would be going berserk and saying this is an overreach.”
Christie said Tuesday that he plans to make a decision on his future plans in the coming weeks.