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DeSantis' Disney oversight board begins tenure with conspiracy-fueled appointee

FILE - Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at an annual leadership meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition on Nov. 19, 2022, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)
FILE - Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at an annual leadership meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition on Nov. 19, 2022, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)
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When Gov. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., signed legislation last month officially ending the Walt Disney Company’s special, autonomous governance zone in the Sunshine State, he declared the “corporate kingdom finally comes to an end.”

In a sense, DeSantis declared himself king, kicking Mickey off of the throne.

The legislation, which was brought up in retaliation against Disney for the company’s opposition to Florida’s Parental Rights in Education law — often referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay” law — does not dismantle the company’s special pseudo-government so much as it just makes DeSantis the one who can appoint the board of governance and prevent anyone affiliated with the company from sitting on the board.

As NPR explained in a broadcast in early February, “Disney's had what it's called its own independent special district that has powers like a municipal government. It's a body that issues bonds, builds and maintains roads, sewers and other infrastructure. It also operates the fire and police departments, all the things that Disney needs to run its big theme park complex near Orlando.”

One of DeSantis’ first picks to sit on the new state politburo — the “Reedy Creek Improvement District” — overseeing the happiest place on Earth, former pastor Ron Peri, is already stirring up controversy after several news outlets dug up several Alex Jones- and Info Wars-style video polemics uploaded to a YouTube account called "thegathering." Some of the videos in question seem to have been deleted by the owner.

In one video from Jan. 2022, Peri discusses the rise of homosexuality in society by ascribing it to chemicals placed in the water — echoing an infamous Alex Jones segment.

“So why are there homosexuals today? There are any number of reasons, you know, that are given,” Peri says in the since-deleted video. “Some would say the increase in estrogen in our societies. You know, there’s estrogen in the water from birth control pills. They can’t get it out.”

Studies show that there are minuscule traces of estrogen in drinking water however it is not affecting Americans and is not a result of birth control pills.

Peri also tried to link homosexuality with the fall of Rome and establish that event as a parallel for modern events.

“Homosexuality was praised,” Peri said in another video. “LGBTQ today is being emphasized everywhere, even on children’s shows. And so ultimately the Romans had become weak.”

He’s also called abortion a “genocide” for Black people, comparing it to the Holocaust.

“It has boggled my mind that you have not seen a massive backlash from the Black population for what is effectively a genocide,” he said in another video. “And if you look to the right [he motioned to a chart, you can see that in world history, there have been great killers. The Holocaust, 11 million were killed. Six million Jews.”

CNN, which chronicled some of Peri’s video posts before they were taken down, reached out to Peri and DeSantis for comment. Neither of the men responded.

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