Pro-DeSantis PAC airs new ad focused on Disney fight, "woke culture"


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A new advertisement from Never Back Down, a super PAC backing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ 2024 presidential bid, is centered around his fight with Disney and taps into general conservative resentment toward what he often characterizes as “woke ideology.” 

The 30-second television ad, which mimics the style of a fairy tale, is a seven-figure-buy that will begin airing Wednesday morning in Iowa and South Carolina, according to details first shared with CBS News. 

The ad suggests DeSantis and allies are betting that Republican primary voters will be receptive to the “culture wars” DeSantis has been waging in Florida, including his ban on gender identity lessons for K-8 students, dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by critics, as well as the feuds with corporations that partner with and recognize the LGBTQ+ community.

“Once upon a time, Disney films were for kids, not secret sexual content,” the ad’s narrator says, as it shows a video of a Disneyland worker with facial hair who is wearing a dress. The ad then slams Bud Light and Target and showcases DeSantis’ legislative actions against Disney over its special district status in Florida. 

After Bud Light collaborated with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney in April, Republicans and DeSantis decried the partnership. During a trip to a Nevada bar last weekend, he joked that he wouldn’t be serving Bud Light to patrons. Meanwhile, Target pulled LGBTQ+ themed merchandise on display for Pride Month after disclosing that workers had received threats. 

On the campaign trail and in the governor’s office, DeSantis often categorizes topics like transgender student athletes, youth gender transition surgeries, and school lessons on sexuality and “Critical Race Theory” as part of “woke ideology.”

Never Back Down has spent almost $15 million on television ads in the 2024 primary cycle. Three of the PAC’s other four ads on the air mention the word “woke,” or feature DeSantis speeches with his slogan, “Florida is where ‘woke’ goes to die.” The merchandise store for the DeSantis campaign sells quarter-zip sweatshirts with the same phrase. 

The topic of “woke” culture has been a rallying call in recent years for the conservative base. In a CBS News poll conducted in late April, 85% of likely Republican primary voters said they’d prefer a candidate who “challenges woke ideas.” But it was former President Donald Trump who captured a majority of those voters in the poll, with 59%, compared to DeSantis’ 24%.

DeSantis and Trump have also gone back and forth over the issue of “woke” culture. During a June trip to Iowa, Trump said he doesn’t like the term “woke.”

“I hear the term ‘woke woke woke’ — it’s just a term they use, half the people can’t define it, they don’t know what it is,” Trump said during an event in Urbandale, Iowa. 

In reaction to Trump’s comment, DeSantis told a reporter in Iowa that “woke is an existential threat to our society” and defined woke as an “attack on truth” and “form of cultural marxism.”

“To say it’s not a big deal, that just shows you don’t understand what a lot of these issues are right now,” DeSantis added.

Justin Sayfie, a veteran GOP strategist and fundraiser for the DeSantis campaign, said the path to the GOP nomination for DeSantis will require him to “marry” the “socially conservative constituencies in the party with the populist conservative constituencies in the party.”

“Fighting against ‘wokeism’ allows a candidate to do both. You’re fighting for conservative values, and you’re also fighting against the perceived powerful elites that Republicans have long been contemptuous of,” Sayfie said. 

While speaking to veterans in Nevada, DeSantis argued that “woke ideology” in the military is negatively impacting recruitment. He specifically referenced comments made by Space Force Lieutenant General DeAnna Burt that criticized “anti-LGBTQ+” laws in Florida.

“People aren’t joining because they’ve seen the military — the culture of the military has lost its way. They are indulging in things like woke ideology, social engineering, using the military for something that it was not intended to do,” DeSantis said last Friday at a Veteran of Foreign Wars event in Reno, Nevada.

In an interview with Fox News that aired Monday, Trump, too, said he wants to get the “woke” out of the military.

During his remarks last Saturday at the annual “Basque Fry” in Las Vegas, put on by DeSantis’ former Naval training roommate and Nevada GOP Senate candidate Adam Laxalt, DeSantis uttered the word “woke” seven times. He applied it to corporations, schools and the military and repeatedly received applause to the lines from the conservative crowd.

Republican voter Jerry Olsen cited “woke” ideology as a reason he attended.

“I came out here to support the Republican party and get rid of those woke leftists, and bring in some nice red Republicans like DeSantis,” he said.

Musadiq Bidar contributed reporting.

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Lisa Holden
Lisa Holden
Lisa Holden is a news writer for LinkDaddy News. She writes health, sport, tech, and more. Some of her favorite topics include the latest trends in fitness and wellness, the best ways to use technology to improve your life, and the latest developments in medical research.

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