Disney CEO Robert Iger tackled questions big and small during the company's annual shareholder meeting.
Iger not only had to defend his role on President Trump's economic advisory council and Disney's ABC and ESPN from charges of bias, but also had to name his favorite Disney princess and favorite upcoming ride at the company's planned Star Wars theme parks at Disneyland and Disney World.
Twice during the Wednesday meeting, Iger was asked to resign from Trump's Strategic and Policy Forum, formed in December 2016. When told that his participation served to condone the president's policies, Iger said his involvement was no endorsement. "I made a decision I thought in the best interests of our company, and of our industry, to have an opportunity to express specific point of views directly to the president of the United States," he said. He compared his participation to the song "The Room Where It Happens" from the musical Hamilton. "I think there is an opportunity when you are in the room where it happens to express opinions that I believe would be in the best interests of our company and its shareholders," Iger said.
Iger said he does not intend to step down from the group. "You don’t make a movie about Zootopia, which is preaching tolerance and talking about how unjust prejudice and how wrong prejudice is unless you believe fundamentally in that ideal and that value," he said.
When told that ABC News and ESPN had a "pervasive bias" against the Trump administration and conservative views by Justin Danhof of the right-leaning National Center for Policy Research, Iger said, "I'm going to disagree with everything you said."
Any issue of anti-conservatism on ESPN is exaggerated, he said. "Watch ESPN, you are not going to see political bias," Iger said.
As for ABC News being among the outlets deemed an "enemy of the American people," Iger said, "there are always going to be people, yourself included, perhaps the president, who are going to believe (the news) is not being presented in a manner that is consistent with their own beliefs. That doesn’t necessarily mean they are being unfair."
Some within the Obama administration considered the media as an adversary, too, he said. "I’m proud of the fact that news can be an adversary and, again, as citizens of the United States, just look at the Bill of Rights," he said. "A freedom of the press is very specifically spelled out, that is freedom to be adversaries even to those that are in power. That’s vital."
When a young girl asked him his favorite princess, he demurred, saying he didn't have one. But noted that a character in the film Inside Out had a girl character with the same name she had ("Riley").
To the boy who asked about what new Star Wars ride he looked forward to most — and how did he get to ride it with Iger — the CEO said he was most excited about the Millennium Falcon ride. "Maybe we can figure out how to ride it together," he said. "You look big enough."
Not brought up during shareholder Q&A? A Sports Illustrated report that ESPN faces impending layoffs as the network looks to cut costs amid declining advertising revenue and subscribers — and growing fees for sports content. ESPN is looking to cut "tens of millions of staff salary," the magazine said citing multiple sources who were not named. Among those expected to leave are many major names that viewers "will recognize," SI said.
Follow USA TODAY reporter Mike Snider on Twitter: @MikeSnider.