• Former US Attorney General Bill Barr tells CNBC’s David Faber at the CNBC CEO Council Summit that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is right about his fight with Disney.
  • Barr, who a year ago expressed his support for DeSantis as a presidential candidate, said at a CNBC event that he would support any Republican who can defeat Donald Trump.
  • DeSantis has become popular among GOP mega-donors and is expected to announce his presidential campaign in Twitter Spaces with Elon Musk on Wednesday.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks during a press conference before signing five state bills into law at Cambridge Christian School in Tampa, Florida, U.S., May 17, 2023.

Octavia Jones | Reuters

Many Republicans are divided over the battle between Disney and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, and amid a broader “demonization” of corporations, some conservatives are worried about the departure from the key pro-business campaign in recent GOP history.

Count former U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr among the leading Republicans who don’t like the idea of ​​using sovereign power to punish a company, but in the ongoing battle between DeSantis and Disney CEO Bob Iger, Barr is firmly on the governor’s side.

“I stand with DeSantis on this,” Barr told CNBC’s David Faber at the CNBC CEO Council Summit this week in Santa Barbara, California. “What’s important to me here is that Disney got special privileges,” Barr said, adding that Disney should be “treated like everybody else.”

Disney sued the state in federal court, accusing DeSantis of waging a political retaliatory campaign against the company after the governor signed legislation voiding Disney’s development deals in Orlando.

As for the underlying issue, which began after Disney publicly criticized a GOP-backed Florida bill that would limit discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in classrooms, Barr says DeSantis has supported a “reasonable policy” regarding the appropriate age to discuss these issues.

“Obviously the motivation was deeper, but that doesn’t bother me,” he added.

Former U.S. Attorney General William Barr speaks to the Forum Club of the Palm Beaches on Tuesday, March 28, 2023, at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach, Florida.

Joe Cavaretta | Tribune news service | Getty Images

Some business interests will not take sides in the struggle; some major donors are pouring more money into Florida’s governor’s coffers. Barr, who is now aligned with a conservative lobby that plans to attack many of the Biden administration’s regulatory policies, said he is not concerned about any friction between DeSantis and the business world over the Disney issue. “If business people prefer a Biden administration over DeSantis, I don’t think they’re going to be affected one way or the other by this issue,” he said.

The two-time attorney general said his views on DeSantis and Disney also do not change his belief that business leaders are more important to the future success of the United States than many politicians.

“Big business needs to clean itself up, but as far as the Republican Party is concerned, I keep sending the message that no matter what we think about politics, at the end of the day, the GOP’s vision is strong economic growth and the technological superiority of the United States , and who will provide it?” – said Barr. “It is not people, not bureaucrats, who sit in Congress. American companies will beat China, not the chairman of a committee in Congress.”

Separately, Nike CEO John Donahue expressed his support for Disney’s position and corporate embrace of “core values” at CNBC’s CEO Council Summit.

Barr, who expressed his support for DeSantis as recently as a year ago when the governor quickly launched early voting that has since disappeared, said he was willing to support “any Republican capable of defeating Trump, and I think we have a good ad for the group.” .

DeSantis is expected to formally announce his Twitter Spaces campaign with Elon Musk on Wednesday, and South Carolina Republican Sen. Tim Scott entered the race with the backing of Oracle billionaire Larry Ellison on Tuesday (Musk also expressed his support for Scott).

Barr said he remains confident Trump will be defeated in the primary, “if not in the primary, then in January.”

Regarding recent polls showing Trump back in the lead, Barr said the polls don’t reflect the trends of many GOP voters. “Many Republicans see a great opportunity in 2024, and Trump is likely to lose. And even if he won, he wouldn’t have the strength to achieve much… As soon as other candidates appear, the results of the polls will change,” he said. said.

Barr added that among Republican Party voters, even in the MAGA base, there was a “softening” on the issue of “stolen” elections. “More and more people are saying it’s not a scam, it’s rigged rules… fewer and fewer people believe in scams,” Barr said.

During the interview, he lashed out at progressivism, calling it “a cute name for a Marxist view of history and the world and the meaning of life.”

“It essentially involves elevating the collective over the individual … perfecting the collective,” Barr said. “It’s an ideology that says people will be judged by which side advances or delays their cause,” and he says it could develop into a form of “soft despotism” in the U.S.


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