News Articles

Eisner labels Disney critics ‘nuts’ in national TV interview

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–The head of The Disney Company shed his self-imposed silence on his company’s critics, including Southern Baptists, in an interview with the CBS News program, “60 Minutes.”
And Michael Eisner, chief executive of the massive entertainment conglomerate, didn’t mince words in calling Disney’s detractors “nuts” for targeting the company for punitive economic action, during the news show, which is scheduled to air Nov. 23. The show was previewed in a Nov. 19 news release issued by CBS News.
Responding to charges made by Richard Land of the Southern Baptist’s agency for ethics and public policy that Disney has adopted a “Christian-bashing, family bashing, pro-homosexual agenda,” Eisner told 60 Minutes correspondent Leslie Stahl: “That’s ridiculous. We’re not pushing any agenda.”
Land, president of the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, was interviewed by Stahl during a two-and-a-half-hour session in Nashville, Tenn., Sept. 19. Eisner was reportedly slow to agree to CBS’s request for an interview.
60 Minutes also spoke with several Southern Baptist families and pastors including former SBC President Jim Henry, pastor of First Baptist Church, Orlando, Fla., who has criticized the resolution adopted by messengers to the 1997 SBC in Dallas that urged Southern Baptists and others to withdraw their support from Disney and other companies that “promote immoral ideologies and practices.”
Of the call to boycott that has now been issued by a host of religious groups, including the American Family Association, Focus on the Family, the Assemblies of God, the Presbyterian Church in America, Concerned Woman for America and the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, Eisner said, “It hasn’t had a financial effect.”
The interview with 60 Minutes reportedly is Eisner’s first on-camera interview on the boycott since it was launched.
“The only reason Michael Eisner is on CBS,” said Donald Wildmon, American Family Association president, “is because he’s beginning to feel the heat, that the boycott is beginning to be successful.” Wildmon again stated his projection it will take at least three years for the effort to be successful.
“He (Eisner) is a man with a mind, he has advisers, he has a multi-million-dollar p.r. department,” all sensing that Eisner should now begin responding to the concerns evangelicals and Catholics are voicing about Disney’s practices and products, Wildmon said.
William Donohue, president of the Catholic League, which has led a charge against Disney subsidiary ABC-TV for a prime-time show, “Nothing Sacred,” about a liberal Catholic priest, said, “I am delighted that Michael Eisner is being forced to go public answering charges about the Disney agenda. … It shows what can happen when Catholics and Protestants stand together to defend the culture.”
Donohue said he is proud to play a part “in educating all Americans about what has been happening to the once family friendly giant, Disney.”
Nothing Sacred, ranked 94th so far this fall, will continue through the TV season, ABC has announced, according to a report in Religion News Service. The Catholic League has noted ABC has shelved at least two other shows which had received higher ratings than “Nothing Sacred.”
Eisner, in utilizing the word, “nuts,” told Stahl in the interview, “When somebody says Pocahontas is anti-Christian or anti- Jewish or anti-black or anti-Native American, I say inside deep down, ‘they’re nuts.’ They really are.”
Asked about the “Gay Days” at the company’s central-Florida theme park, Eisner said Disney doesn’t discriminate against anybody: “The homosexual organizations arranged that day themselves. … And I think it would be a travesty in this country for us to exclude anybody,” according to the CBS News release.
In the interview with Stahl, Land said much of what Disney subsidiaries are producing now are “not the kind of things Southern Baptists want to subsidize by going to the Disney theme parks.”
Many people “will never feel the same way again about Disney,” Land continued, taking the company to task for “mocking and caricaturing” Christians in its films and videos, adding Southern Baptists were simply “exercising their right to protest” Disney’s perceived agenda.
When Stahl asked Land how long the economic action against Disney would last, he speculated “a long time,” noting he was unsure what Disney would have to do to get the resolution to boycott rescinded. “The convention will have to make that decision; I don’t make that call,” he said.
Unfamiliar with the structure of the SBC and the nature of resolutions emanating from the annual convention, Land told Stahl the Southern Baptist denomination “didn’t have the hierarchy capable of enforcing anything on individual Southern Baptists,” explaining the convention is composed of autonomous churches.
Stahl also quizzed Land on the SBC’s “conservative resurgence,” on Southern Baptist’s views on the United States as “a Christian nation” and about Baptists and dancing.
To her query, “Why hasn’t Disney responded?” Land said he didn’t know, saying it was a mystery to him that a corporation with such “media savvy” had so far reacted in such “a clumsy fashion.”
“Ellen,” the ABC/Disney sitcom that last season provided viewers with the first openly homosexual lead character on prime time, and earlier this season featured what ABC News called a “deep, prolonged, perhaps employing some tongue” kiss between the show’s star, Ellen DeGeneres, and a female actor, continued its gay parade Nov. 19.
The show featured actors Sean Penn and Emma Thompson declaring their embrace of an on-screen homosexual lifestyle. The show included Thompson, on the verge of publicly announcing her homosexuality, saying, “I have an appointment with destiny. Let’s go out and terrify some Baptists!”
Land cited Thompson’s comment as further evidence of The Disney Company’s agenda to disparage people of faith.
“We’re not terrified; we are offended that such gross immorality is made the subject of humor in prime time and grieved that Disney continues to promote homosexuality as a healthy and normative lifestyle,” Land continued.
“Any fair-minded observer will admit that the latest episode of Ellen supports our argument and refutes Mr. Eisner’s,” Land said. “I am disappointed that ABC’s Ellen would chose to take such a cheap shot but also encouraged. For if our charges were ridiculous as Mr. Eisner alleges and our boycott was having no effect, why would they bother to mention us?”
In the 60 Minutes segment, Eisner gives a thumbs-up to Ellen’s ongoing coming-out plot, according to the CBS News release. “That was (DeGeneres’s) choice and ABC’s choice and I think it was well done,” he said, noting the kiss between Ellen and her co-star “didn’t offend me.”
The segment on the Disney boycott and featuring Eisner and Land is scheduled to air during 60 Minutes Sunday, Nov. 23, 7-8 p.m. Eastern.

Art Toalston contributed to this story.

    About the Author

  • Dwayne Hastings