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Disney CEO Bob Iger may not have attended the first meeting of President Donald Trump’s Economic Advisory Council, but he is still speaking out about the new administration’s recent ban on immigration from several majority-Muslim countries.
“Look, this nation was founded by immigrants,” Iger said Tuesday during an interview with CNBC following Disney’s fiscal first-quarter earnings release, “and I think where we are as a nation is due to having an openness to the people of the world. It is incredibly important. And I have, and I firmly believe, that we cannot shut our borders to immigrants.”
Trump on Jan. 30 signed an executive order temporarily banning entry of immigrants, including refugees, from seven majority-Muslim countries including Iran, Iraq and Syria, until the U.S. implemented a new “extreme vetting” protocol. A San Francisco-based Court of Appeals is hearing arguments about the legality of the executive order following a decision by a federal judge in Washington state to halt the order nationwide.
Iger’s comments come four days after he was invited to meet with other executives at the White House as part of a policy forum designed to create jobs and drive economic growth. Iger, the only entertainment industry executive invited alongside such tech leaders as Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, did not attend the meeting because of a previously scheduled board meeting that conflicted with the forum.
The leaders who agreed to attend the forum have been criticized for their participation. Kalanick’s participation, for example, stoked ire among Uber customers already frustrated that the company continued to service New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport during protests of the immigration executive order. The hashtag #DeleteUber began trending on Twitter during the protests. Animators had also criticized Iger for his planned participation.
But Iger on Tuesday defended his decision to join the council. “I think it is a great opportunity for the president to hear from the business community,” the exec said. “As a member of the business community, it is a great opportunity for me to have a direct pipeline to the President and the senior members of his team.”
Iger added that he has a “good opportunity to be the sole representative” of the entertainment industry on a number of issues, including intellectual property protection and trade. He also discussed changes he’d like to see to the tax law. “The corporate tax rate is the highest in that world, and we pay a very high corporate tax rate and believe that it is time for that to be re-examined, and that could potentially be a real boon to the Walt Disney Company,” he said.
Asked whether Trump’s confrontational position on China could impact Disney, which last year opened Shanghai Disneyland in the country, Iger demurred. “I don’t know that we know for sure what President Trump’s approach is,” he said. “I think that we all know that trading with China is really important. The relationship this company has with China is certainly important, both from a movie perspective, from a parks perspective, from a consumer products perspective. An all-out trade war with China would be damaging, I think, to our business, to Disney’s business and to business in general.”
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