Former Trump Legal Advisor Jenna Ellis Offers to Defend Disney After DeSantis Signs Law Ending Special Status

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Posted: Apr 23, 2022 1:50 PM
Former Trump Legal Advisor Jenna Ellis Offers to Defend Disney After DeSantis Signs Law Ending Special Status

Source: AP Photo/John Raoux, File

On Friday, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) signed a series of bills into law, including an end to Disney World special tax and autonomy privileges, which had been thanks to The Reedy Creek Improvement Act that was established in May 1967. While not all conservatives supported the law, which will end Disney World's status in June 2023, perhaps none were more vocally opposed than Jenna Ellis, who formerly served as legal counsel to Donald Trump. 

Ellis had been tweeting over the past few days her thoughts on the bill, as it came closer to becoming law, which it did. This included agreeing with National Review's Charles C. W. Cooke, whose take was highlighted by our friends at Twitchy and Peter Pischke in a column for Townhall earlier this week. 

As Caroline Vakil highlighted for The Hill, this included an offer from Ellis, who tagged Disney in her offer to defend them against what she called "Florida's illegal retaliation." Her tweet came as a retweet of another Twitter user, Henry Herest, who suggested Disney hire her as their lawyer. It came in a thread with a screenshot of Ellis tweeting with an account known as "Jesus=Answer."

In subsequent tweets, Ellis has continued to maintain that she is standing by a First Amendment argument. 

Ellis also tweeted a Friday Newsweek article by Katherine Fung, where she is cited:

A former attorney for President Donald Trump told Newsweek that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis would be likely to lose in court if Disney files suit against him over the bill revoking the company's special status in Florida.

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Ellis, who was hired as a senior legal analyst by then-president Trump in 2019, has argued that the legislation violates Disney's constitutional right to free speech, telling Newsweek that the government cannot punish Disney's "protected speech" but that this is "exactly what the State of Florida is doing."

"DeSantis and Florida legislators have admitted (and even fundraised off of!) their motive for retaliation against Disney because Disney put out a statement and said it would use its resources to fight against the Parental Rights in Education bill," she wrote.

The attorney said that in order for Disney to successfully argue that their constitutional right is being violated, the company would need to prove that they engaged in protected conduct, such as speech, and that adverse action was taken against Disney and that the adverse action was motivated in part by the protected conduct.

"Disney clearly meets all of the elements here. The First Amendment right to criticize government or public officials or legislation is supported by caselaw and the Constitution," she said. "What Florida is doing is illegal and unconstitutional."

Ellis emphasized that while she doesn't necessarily agree with Disney's position, she is a "constitutional conservative" who is dedicated to defending the right to speech "regardless of whether I agree with the speech or conduct, and regardless of whether the offending government is a blue or red state."

"The right to disagree with our government is a hallmark of American liberty," Ellis said.

The Disney account that Ellis had tagged appears to exclusively tweet about their programming and theme parks. The Walt Disney Company Twitter account, however, has tweeted statements opposed to another law Gov. DeSantis signed, last month, in this case, the parental rights in education law. 

As of Saturday afternoon, the Walt Disney Company has not tweeted in response to the legislation affecting them that was signed into law on Friday, or about Ellis' offer.

The coming end of the Reedy Creek Improvement District has been ramped up in the midst of Disney's opposition to the parental rights law, which they, as have other critics, dubbed the "Don't Say Gay" law. 

When it comes to claims of retaliation, it's worth pointing out that, as Julio covered earlier this month, Gov. DeSantis in a press conference on March 31 that "What I would say as a matter of first principle is I don’t support special privileges in law just because a company is powerful and they’ve been able to wield a lot of power."