Disney CEO Iger Responds to Criticism Over Trump Council

Walt Disney’s annual shareholders meeting didn’t offer further clarity on CEO Bob Iger’s retirement date. But the forum did provide the chief executive with a platform to push back against criticism regarding his participation on President Donald Trump’s business advisory council.

Iger has faced criticism for being one of a handful of major company executives with ties to Trump’s Strategic and Policy Forum. On Wednesday, a group of protesters set up outside the Disney shareholders meeting in Denver to oppose Iger’s participation in Trump’s business task force, and the CEO faced questions during the meeting from attendees who called for him to distance himself and Disney from the administration.

In response, Iger said he does not believe that his membership in the Strategic and Policy Forum “in any way endorses or supports any specific policy of the president or his administration.” Iger, a longtime Democrat who co-hosted a fundraiser for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign last summer, went on to reference the song “The Room Where It Happens” from the smash-hit Broadway musical Hamilton while arguing that it is “in the best interests” of Disney for the CEO to have a voice in Trump’s advisory council.

“I think there is an opportunity, when you are in the room where it happens, to express opinions I believe would be in the best interest of the company and its shareholders,” Iger said.

Last month, Uber Technologies CEO Travis Kalanick opted to remove himself from Trump’s business task force following backlash that included a customer boycott and opposition from the tech company’s employees over the Trump administration’s immigration policies.

Activists and critics of Iger’s participation in the Trump advisory council have accused the CEO of damaging Disney’s reputation and of being complicit in some of the administration’s more controversial policies. Meanwhile, Iger himself did not actually attend the first meeting of Trump’s Strategic and Policy Forum last month due to a scheduling conflict, and the CEO also spoke out publicly against the administration’s travel ban.

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Iger also fielded a question from an attendee of the shareholders meeting who accused Disney’s various media assets, namely ESPN and ABC News, of liberal bias with regard to coverage of President Trump and his administration. Iger called the accusation against ESPN “a complete exaggeration” and added that he is “proud of the efforts of ABC News.”

Iger said last month that he’s open to another extension of his contract, which is set to expire in June 2018, but he did not suggest during the shareholders meeting that any announcement was imminent. Disney’s board had been expected to discuss a potential contract extension for Iger while it is convened in Denver for the meeting.

CORRECTION: The original version of this article incorrectly identified certain attendees who asked Disney CEO Bob Iger questions during the meeting as company shareholders. The attendees in question were in attendance as part of proxy proposal groups and are not shareholders.

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