Disney heiress Abigail Disney has become increasingly outspoken on issues like income inequality and taxation, often with a progressive sensibility that’s earned her plaudits among Democrats. And so now she’s doing what seemingly every other high-profile person with an eye on national politics has done in the last few years: starting a podcast.
The granddaughter of Walt Disney Company co-founder Roy Disney launched All Ears at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, with episodes focused on American capitalism and corporate governance—oftentimes making not-so-veiled criticisms of her own family’s company and her wealthy upbringing.
But her imprint on the overcrowded medium seems poised to grow, as she’s slated to book some high-profile political guests, including Planned Parenthood’s former president Cecile Richards and Harvard economist Rebecca Henderson. This week, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) joined Disney’s podcast for an episode set to broadcast Thursday.
During the episode, the two promoted Warren’s proposal to levy a 2 percent tax on every dollar for individuals with a net worth over $50 million, and discussed ways to redistribute some of Disney and her family’s own wealth.
“I kept saying to my mother who might disagree with pretty intensely, I’m doing everything I do because of what you taught me,” said Disney, who is not a part of the company but has inherited a significant portion of the family wealth. “And sometimes the biggest rebel in the family is the one who's really about the value.”
Disney, who said she is worth $120 million and claims to have given away $70 million over her lifetime, has not been shy about criticizing her family’s company. She has said that the company’s former longtime CEO Bob Iger’s $66 million annual salary was “insane.”
In recent months, she’s taken aim at Disney’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and treatment of its employees.
In a series of tweets last month, she protested the company’s furlough of tens of thousands of staffers, calling on top executives to forgo compensation during the coronavirus crisis to offset some of the cuts to lower-wage employees. Iger and current Disney CEO Bob Chapek have both said they will forgo part or all of their salaries, but are reportedly eligible for extremely lucrative bonuses and incentives worth tens of millions.
“WHAT THE ACTUAL F***?????” she wrote. “Look, dividends aren't ALL bad, given the number of fixed income folks who rely on them. But still 80% of shares are owned by the wealthiest 10%. So that excuse only goes so far.”
But her commentary has expanded beyond the boundaries of her family’s entertainment empire, in ways that certainly leave the impression that a more formal entrée into politics could be on the horizon. For the launch of her podcast—itself a quasi-political act—Disney has turned to Megaphone Strategies, a communications and media relations firm that has worked with some of the most prominent institutions of the progressive political firmament, including Stacey Abrams’ gubernatorial campaign in Georgia.
The 60-year-old documentary filmmaker has also been vocally critical of many conservative politicians. Her Twitter feed often rails against President Donald Trump, and expresses support for Democratic politicians like Warren and Rep. Katie Porter.
“I’m kind of a lefty, New York City, Manhattan, pointy-headed intellectual type," she said in an interview last year. "Those are the people who hate Disney and think it’s the worst thing on Earth, and that’s where I probably would be if I weren’t actually related to it."
Abigail Disney is not the only member of the family who has admonished the iconic company.
The Daily Beast reported on Wednesday that Brad Lund, grandson of co-founder Walt Disney, said he was dismayed by “senior Disney management compensation levels while furloughing Disney workers at this critical time.”
“I have already expressed my hope that the Disney organization continue to give reasonable compensation and support to its many loyal employees in the spirit of the company of which my grandfather was so proud,” Brad Lund told The Daily Beast in a statement.