Watchdog group pushes back on Bob Iger's claim that Disney isn't ‘sexualizing children’

A Walt Disney World entrance arch gate in Orlando, Florida, April 28, 2022.
A Walt Disney World entrance arch gate in Orlando, Florida, April 28, 2022. | iStock/JHVEPhoto

A media watchdog group is pushing back on Disney CEO Bob Iger's assertion that the company does not sexualize children and is encouraging parents to seek alternative programming options for their children.

In a recent interview with CNBC, Iger balked that “the notion that Disney is in any way sexualizing children quite frankly is preposterous and inaccurate.” Iger’s comment came in response to host David Faber asking him to address Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ condemnation of what he described as “sexualized content” produced by the corporation. 

The Parents Television and Media Council, a “nonprofit, nonpartisan research and education organization advocating responsible entertainment” that seeks to “protect children and families from graphic sex, violence and profanity in the media,” has repeatedly raised concerns about Disney’s programming in recent years.

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In an interview with The Christian Post, Parents Television and Media Council Vice President Melissa Henson cited Iger’s insistence that Disney does not sexualize children as evidence that he “obviously isn’t paying very close attention to” the content his company produces.

While Disney has received pushback from parents and consumers for programming deemed inappropriate for children in recent years (see here, here and here), Henson told CP that the problem has existed for a long time. 

“Going back decades, programs on the Disney Channel that were targeted to preteens emphasized romantic relationships, even though the target audience was [children aged] 8, 9, 10 [and] 11,” she said. Henson lamented the efforts to introduce a “boyfriend, girlfriend element” to shows directed at preteens, noting that it is “not necessarily top of mind” for children in that age group.

Henson explained to CP that concerning content produced by Disney extends beyond the Disney Channel to other outlets owned by the company, including FX.

Henson identified “A Teacher,” an FX miniseries she summarized as documenting an “illicit relationship” between a teacher and a high school student and “Little Demon,” a series that airs on Disney-owned FXX derided by the advocacy group One Million Moms as a promotion of “demons, witches and sorcery” featuring “graphic violence and nudity” as more recent examples of programs that sexualize children. She pointed to the aforementioned programs as part of a “long list of content” produced by Disney that sexualizes children.

“It’s just not true what Bob Iger said,” she proclaimed. Iger’s interview with CNBC took place three months after Parents Television and Media Council spearheaded a petition with more than 10,000 signatures asking Disney’s board of directors to halt the company’s production of sexually explicit content.

After telling CP that they “haven’t received a response” from the Disney board, Henson said, “part of me wonders whether this statement from Bob Iger was an attempt to address the concerns that we raised in that petition.” When asked if the petition may have had an effect on the company’s programming, Henson suggested that “it may be too soon to tell.”

Henson said her advice to parents who subscribe to Disney Plus or other Disney-owned streaming services, is, “If you have concerns about the content, drop that subscription.” She encouraged parents to “redirect your entertainment dollars” to other companies she promoted as “good alternatives,” including Dove and Great American Family.

DeSantis’ suggestion that Disney sexualizes children comes more than a year after the company, which operates the Walt Disney World theme park in Florida, spoke out against a Parental Rights in Education bill dubbed by critics as the “Don’t Say Gay Bill.” The measure, which DeSantis signed into law early last year, prohibits school officials from discussing matters related to sexual orientation and gender identity with students in kindergarten through third grade.

In a statement decrying the bill, then-Disney CEO Bob Chapek vowed to increase financial support for “advocacy groups to combat similar legislation in other states.” Shortly thereafter, Florida lawmakers approved a measure designed to abolish the Reedy Creek Improvement District, the “independent special district” containing Disney World that Republican Florida state Rep. Spencer Roach defined as Disney’s “own government.”

Earlier this year, DeSantis appointed the Central Florida Tourism Oversight Board to replace the Reedy Creek Improvement District. Chapek weighed in on his company’s feud with the Florida governor and Republican presidential candidate in his interview with CNBC over its advocacy against the legislation. “The last thing that I want for the company is for the company to be drawn into any culture wars,” he remarked.

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at:

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