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Bob Iger — motivated by the “patriot in me” and backed by Oprah Winfrey but discouraged by wife Willow Bay — may have been closer to running for U.S. president than many may have presumed. In fact, it was a blockbuster deal for Disney to acquire most of 21st Century Fox that finally put an end to his flirtation with a presidential run.
Such are the revelations from a Vogue profile of the Disney CEO in which, for the first time, he speaks in depth about his political aspirations, and he presumably takes a few shots at President Trump, though without naming him.
In author Bob Haskell’s profile, Iger says he started to think about the presidency prior to the last election but says: “Willow initially not only hated the idea, but put her foot down because she thought it would be highly destructive to our family.”
On the other hand, Winfrey was not only on board, she said she’d consider a cabinet post in Iger’s presidency, and his wife reluctantly gave in to the notion, Iger says. Then Fox agreed to sell its film and TV studio and several other assets to Disney for $52.4 billion, a deal that will require his full attention if he’s to get it through regulatory hurdles — which may not happen until summer 2019.
“The thought I had was coming from the patriot in me, growing up at a time when we respected our politicians not only for what they stood for but because of what they accomplished. I am horrified at the state of politics in America today,” Iger says.
“I will throw stones in multiple directions. Dialogue has given way to disdain,” he continues to Vogue. “I, maybe a bit naively, believed that there was a need for someone in high elected office to be more open-minded and willing to not only govern from the middle but to try to shame everyone else into going to the middle.”
“Bob is one of the people I respect most in the world,” Winfrey tells Haskell. “He is infinitely capable of multiple categories of expertise, and he has created an environment where you can disagree with him — and that’s not just because I’m Oprah. I really, really pushed him to run for president, so much so that I said to him, ‘Gee, if you ever decide to run for office, I will go door to door carrying leaflets. I will go sit and have tea with people.'”
Asked if she’d serve under him, Winfrey says: “Um, I’d have been happy to be in his cabinet.”
Iger, who also considered a run for California governor, recently extended his CEO contract at Disney through 2021, when he’ll be 71, not too old to revisit a career in politics, given that Trump is already 71 years old.
Iger is definitely a liberal, though he has expressed some conservative viewpoints when it comes to economic issues, like when he went on CNBC six years ago to gripe about a high corporate tax rate. Earlier this year, he celebrated Trump’s tax-reform bill by promising $1,000 bonuses to 125,000 Disney employees.
While not (yet) a politician, Iger continues to weigh in on timely issues — supporting Dreamers and NFL players who kneel during the National Anthem, for example. He also left Trump’s advisory council after the president decided to withdraw from the Paris climate deal, Haskell notes in his profile, which also includes Iger’s thoughts on the #MeToo movement, which has already ensnared Pixar chief creative officer John Lasseter.
“Two things need to occur,” Iger says. “We need to figure out as an industry how to prevent this behavior from happening again, and we have to make sure that we create environments for people, particularly women, to be able to speak up if they have been victimized by this or if they have seen others being victimized by it. I love that people are speaking up, and I hope — and I’m actually optimistic — that change is occurring.”
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