“We have been working closely with the White House and the president’s recording session has been scheduled,” says a Disney World spokeswoman responding to the now-discredited story.
Disney has responded to a report about trouble behind the scenes of its Hall of Presidents attraction, characterizing the Vice story as “inaccurate.” The story was then retracted by Vice, citing “factual errors.” Disney owns an estimated 10 to 18 percent of the media company.
The ride — actually a sit-down presentation featuring “audio-animatronic” versions of presidents alive and dead — first opened at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., in 1971. It is currently closed to visitors as it prepares to add Donald Trump to its small army of robotic U.S. leaders.
Starting with Bill Clinton in 1993, the sitting president has delivered a short speech at the end of the 23-minute show, recorded by the commander-in-chief himself. (Before that, Abraham Lincoln would deliver the speech, spoken by an actor.)
Just two days after last November’s historic election, Disney president Bob Iger assured shareholders that business for the studio would proceed as usual in Trump’s America — and that included “a smooth transition” for the nostalgic draw, which had already “prepared a bust” of the former reality star for inclusion.
But according to a now-retracted story from Vice’s Motheboard, a planned debut this summer for the Trump robot has been pushed to fall amid “much behind-the-scenes drama and internal machinations about whether or not Trump would have a speaking role in the attraction.”
Motherboard cited an unnamed source who says the president’s communications team “turned what should have been a simple recording process into a public relations nightmare” for the scrupulously apolitical company.
Jacquee Wahler, vp communications for Walt Disney World, calls the Vice report “inaccurate,” adding that “President Trump will have a speaking role in the Hall of Presidents like every president since 1993.”
“We have been working closely with the White House and the president’s recording session has been scheduled. We have repeatedly stated that the attraction will reopen in late 2017,” Wahler says.
Last month, Iger told CNN that the script for Trump’s speech had already been written for him and had been provided to “his team to edit.”
“We’re hopeful that by the first anniversary of his election, he’ll be there with the 44 other presidents that preceded him,” the exec said.
In a message posted to its website, Vice says it is “conducting a full editorial review to pinpoint how this source was vetted, and how these stories were approved and published in violation of our usual editorial workflow. We fell short of our standards, and regret the error.”
June 28, 11:30 am Updated story to note that Vice has now retracted its article claiming Trump’s team had turned the Hall of Presidents enhancements process into a “public relations nightmare.”