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Two days after 59 people were killed during a concert in Las Vegas, Disney CEO Bob Iger used his platform at the Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit to speak out about gun violence.
During the first few moments of his talk Tuesday, Iger asked, “In this day and age we get outraged when an athlete doesn’t stand for the national anthem — where is the outrage here?” He went on to say that people “should be demanding a dialogue from our politicians.”
Sunday night’s shooting hit especially close to home for Iger, who said onstage that he had learned of one Disney employee who was killed and two who were wounded. “It’s been a really tough 24 hours,” the exec said, adding that he has counted “over 70” Disney staffers who were there and witnessed the attack. “It’s been a trying time, not just for us but for so many people.”
Iger also fielded questions about ESPN SportsCenter host Jemele Hill’s tweets calling President Donald Trump a “white supremacist.” Her comments led White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders to say that the tweets were a “fireable offense.” Iger said he got involved in discussions about what should be done and ultimately decided that ESPN and Disney should not to take action against Hill. “We certainly have not asked ESPN to be politically leaning,” he said, adding, “Jemele Hill is an ESPN employee and she can’t separate herself for what she speaks publicly or when she uses Twitter.” But he went on to say that it was important to consider Hill’s perspective. “I felt we had to take context into account” and consider “there were a lot of people out there that were outraged” over Trump’s actions.
Iger also touched briefly on the recent protests by NFL players during the national anthem, which were spurred on after Trump lashed out at former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. “A little empathy goes a long way,” the CEO said in explaining why he supported the protests, even though he acknowledged that he would prefer people stand during the anthem.
During the half-hour talk, Iger appeared game to field most of moderator Nick Bilton’s questions. Asked about whether Disney considered buying Twitter, he confirmed that they did but ultimately decided not to do it. Instead, the company has acquired majority control of BAMTech. But when the exec was queried about whether he would have kicked Trump off the platform, he threw his hands in the air and said, “I thought you were going to ask about the election.”
Later, Bilton began to talk about whether Iger would run for president after his term at Disney had ended. “Let’s not go there,” he responded. Bilton polled the audience instead and, after a smattering of claps, Iger said, “I take that as tepid.” He then noted that his wife Willow Bay, who interviewed Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella earlier in the day, was in the audience. “I guarantee she was not clapping.”
One thing Iger was definitive about was that he will step down as CEO of Disney when his contract expires in July 2019. “This time I will,” he said as the talk was wrapping up.
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