Republican Senators Roger Marshall (Kansas), Mike Lee (Utah), Mike Braun (Indiana), Kevin Cramer (North Dakota) and Steve Daines (Montana) have proposed a new television rating to warn viewers of LGBTQ+ characters.
The group sent a letter Wednesday to the TV Parental Guidelines Monitoring Board to request a new rating, saying in recent years "concerning topics of a sexual nature have become aggressively politicized and promoted in children’s programming, including irreversible and harmful experimental treatments for mental disorders like gender dysphoria."
The Senators urged Charles Rivkin, the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Motion Picture Association (MPA) who also happens to chair the TV Parental Guidelines Monitoring Board to consider implementing a rating to caution parents about "disturbing content."
They noted the Telecommunications Act of 1996 "enabled greater parental choice in television programming," adding once the law was implemented, it allowed parents to block any "violent, sexual, or other programming that they believe may irrevocably interfere with their child’s emotional and psychological development."
To justify their calls for a new rating, the Senators cited a recent video that made the rounds on Twitter in which Karey Burke, the President of Disney’s General Entertainment Content, vowed to make Disney productions more inclusive of underrepresented groups, such as racial minorities and the LGBTQ+ community.
Burke, speaking "as a mother of two queer children," said she wanted underrepresented groups to account for at least 50 percent of Disney's regular characters by the end of 2022.
But that pledge has apparently incensed the Senators, who suggested that Burke's announcement was an indication of Disney's more nefarious aims:
"To the detriment of children, gender dysphoria has become sensationalized in the popular media and television with radical activists and entertainment companies."
"This radical and sexual sensation not only harms children, but also destabilizes and damages parental rights.”
The group also went further in their criticisms of Disney, claiming that this "radical and sexual sensation not only harms children, but also destabilizes and damages parental rights," pointing to Disney's recent opposition to Florida's controversial "Don't Say Gay" law.
Florida’s Republican-sponsored Parental Rights in Education bill, or H.B. 1557, was recently signed into law by Republican Governor Ron DeSantis. The law, colloquially known as the “Don’t Say Gay” law, aims to “reinforce the fundamental right of parents to make decisions regarding the upbringing and control of their children in a specified manner.”
The law wants to prohibit “a school district from encouraging classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grade levels or in a specified manner” and authorizes parents to “bring an action against a school district to obtain a declaratory judgment that a school district procedure or practice violates certain provisions of law.”
According to the group, Disney is just one company made up of "hyper-sexualized entertainment producers" who are "striving to push this content on young audiences are suspect at best and predatory at worst."
"The Board is obligated to ensure the rating criteria helps parents be informed about mature content before it is displayed to their children."
"In light of parents raising legitimate concerns on sexual orientation and genderidentity content on children’s TV shows, we expect the Board to fulfill its responsibility inupdating the TV Parental Guidelines to reflect these concerns."
The Senators said they would like a response from Rivkin no later than May 18 and have requested an in-person meeting with members of the TV Parental Guidelines Monitoring Board that would offer "the opportunity to present its findings and answer questions about the Board’s review process."
The story, first reported by The New York Post, quickly made the rounds on social media and many criticized the Republican politicians for their move, accusing them of bigotry.
Disney received negative press earlier this year after fans–and even Disney heir Abigail Disney–criticized the corporation amid reports the entertainment company donated to politicians who supported the "Don't Say Gay" bill.
Current Disney CEO Bob Chapek had not spoken out against the lesgislation, a sharp contrast from former Disney chairman and CEO Bob Iger, who retweeted President Joe Biden’s criticism of the “hateful bill.”
Geoff Morrell, a former George W. Bush appointee to the Defense Department who now works as the Disney Corporation's Chief Corporate Affairs Officer, defended Chapek's silence, saying he simply desired both to keep his personal political affiliations private and for the Disney Corporation to remain apolitical.
That defense did not satisfy Disney fans or employees, who criticized the company's stance until the backlash forced the company to pivot.
Disney's about-face prompted Florida Republicans to retaliate by introducing legislation revoking the company's special tax district, which Governor Ron DeSantis quickly signed.