Disney's firefighters backed DeSantis as he feuded with the company. Now his new board ignored their pleas and stripped away their park benefits.

The DeSantis campaign has been polling The Walt Disney Co. in early primary voting states, and found it's unpopular.

The DeSantis campaign has been polling The Walt Disney Co. in early primary voting states, and found it’s unpopular.Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG and Tracy Glantz/The State/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

  • Disney World’s firefighters were once in support of DeSantis’ plan to assume control of the Reedy Creek Improvement District.

  • That was until his new board stripped them of their discounts and free passes to the parks.

  • A number of firefighters confronted DeSantis’ board last week at a meeting about this.

Disney World’s first responders once backed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ plan to assume control of the Reedy Creek Improvement District, which formerly had autonomous control over the land that Disney occupied.

“Anything has got to be better than what we currently have,” Tim Stromsnes, communications director of the Reedy Creek Professional Firefighters Local 2117 union, told the Orlando Sentinel in January.

But now firefighters are having second thoughts after the new oversight board moved to strip them of special Disney perks they’ve had for decades. Last week, the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, the rebranded Reedy Creek board, revoked all of the firefighters’ free passes to the Disney parks and resorts. First responders told the Miami Times Online makes visits to the theme park unaffordable now.

“The removal of this benefit takes away, for some, their entire reason for working here,” firefighter Pete Simon told the Times Online.

A number of firefighters confronted DeSantis’ new board at a monthly meeting last Wednesday about the free passes and what they meant for them and their families. They said, according to the Times Online, that the discounts afforded to them by Disney were a major reason they chose to work there.

DeSantis, who briefly paused his presidential campaign as Hurricane Idalia neared his state, has made efforts in recent weeks to move beyond his long-running feud with the entertainment giant. Disney previously sued DeSantis and his administration amid their increasingly acrimonious relationship.

“So all we want to do is treat everybody the same, and let’s move forward. I’m totally fine with that,” DeSantis told CNBC, encouraging Disney to drop the suit. “But I’m not fine with giving extraordinary privileges, you know, to one special company at the exclusion of everybody else.”

The feud began when Disney, after significant internal pressure, opposed DeSantis’ parents rights in education bill that critics deemed “Don’t Say Gay” due to its ban on discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten classrooms through third grade. There is also a broader restriction based on what material is “age-appropriate.”

DeSantis argued that he wasn’t specifically targeting Disney when he pushed the legislature to end its special status shortly after the fight over the parental rights law. But in his book, the governor seemed to delight in taking on one of the largest employers in his state. Disney also scrapped a $1 billion project planned in the state.

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