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Disney CEO Cites Broadway Musical to Justify his Inclusion on Trump Panel

Bob Iger considers his place at the table to be a privilege that doesn’t necessarily indicate support for the president.

Uber’s Travis Kalanick already has left Trump’s economic advisory council and Disney’s Bob Iger was a no-show at the first meeting.

Apparently, Iger had pre-arranged board duties to attend to, though that hasn’t stopped some from wondering whether the Democrat and rumored 2020 presidential candidate would quit, too.

In response to a question at Disney’s annual shareholder meeting in Denver yesterday, Iger said he would indeed remain on the 18-member panel. And, in true show business fashion, he referenced a song from the acclaimed musical production “Hamilton” called “The Room Where it Happens” to make his point.

“I think there is an opportunity, when you are in the room where it happens, to express opinions I believe would be in the best interest of the company and its shareholders,” Iger said.

In the song, the actor playing former American vice-president Aaron Burr laments that he wasn’t privy to a historic dinner table meeting between founding fathers Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. At the meeting, Hamilton won his proposal for the government to assume state debts in exchange for allowing the capital city to move to the District of Columbia, now known as Washington D.C.

“HAVING A PRESENCE IN WASHINGTON DIDN’T IMPLY AN ENDORSEMENT OF TRUMP OR HIS POLICIES. I THINK IT’S ACTUALLY A PRIVILEGED OPPORTUNITY.”

The Broadway production has became a touch point for political divisions in the wake of Trump’s election after crew member Brandon Dixon, who played Burr, in November delivered a plea for understanding and inclusion directly to current vice-president Mike Pence, who was sitting in the audience.

Iger said having a presence in Washington didn’t imply an endorsement of Trump or his policies. “I think it’s actually a privileged opportunity,” he said, earning an applause from attendees at the shareholder meeting.

By electing to stay inside the tent, Iger has adopted the same approach as IBM’s Ginni Rometty and Tesla’s Elon Musk. Both have responded to criticism from staff and customers by arguing they can achieve more within earshot of the president.

“I understand the perspective of those who object to my attending this meeting, but I believe that at this time that engaging on critical issues will on balance serve the greater good,” Musk said last month.

Musk used the meeting as an opportunity to push for the adoption of a carbon tax, something that reportedly went down like a lead balloon with Trump and other CEOs at the table.

On Wednesday, Iger said he wouldn’t hold back on criticizing government policies he disliked, including Trump’s controversial immigration ban. “I don’t happen to believe policies that single people out by religion are fair and just,” he said, while noting that Disney had benefited from an open immigration policy.

As recently reported in Chief Executive, Uber’s Kalanick may have had his own unique challenges to deal with, making any other defections from Trump’s panel unlikely.

About Ross Kelly

Ross Kelly
Ross Kelly is a London-based business journalist. He has been a staff correspondent or editor at The Wall Street Journal, Yahoo Finance and the Australian Associated Press.