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Disney asks judge to toss out Elon Musk-backed lawsuit by former ‘Mandalorian’ actress

Gina Carano sued Disney for firing her from the hit "Star Wars" spin-off after she posted a series of controversial tweets.

LOS ANGELES (CN) — Walt Disney Co. on Wednesday asked a federal judge to throw out the Elon Musk-funded wrongful termination lawsuit by actress Gina Carano, who was dropped from "The Mandalorian" television series after comparing the treatment of conservatives in the U.S. to that of Jews in Nazi Germany.

In their request to dismiss Carano's complaint, Disney and its Lucasfilms subsidiary, which produces the show, maintain that under the First Amendment, "a creative production enterprise is entitled to broad deference in deciding which performers to employ to express its artistic messages."

"She personifies the show," Daniel Petrocelli, Disney's attorney said at the hearing in downtown Los Angeles. "She personifies Disney's artistic creation."

U.S. District Judge Sherilyn Garnett took Disney's motion under submission but indicated that she had reservations about dismissing the case at this stage of the proceedings where, under the law, she has to accept the actress's claims as true.

In this regard, the judge specifically pointed out Carano's claim that she was terminated to deflect attention away from then-Disney CEO's Bob Chapek "failed leadership." That, according to Garnett, suggested a factual dispute that couldn't be adjudicated on a motion to dismiss.

Gene Schaerr, Carano's attorney, argued at the hearing that the actress made her comments on social media in her own time, not while she was on set, and that Disney shouldn't be allowed to short-circuit the litigation process.

As Carano's character on the TV show became more popular, Disney claims, her social media posts began to distract from and undermine the media company's own expressive efforts.

The actress blamed pandemic-related closure orders and vaccine mandates for causing widespread suicides and murders, attacked the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election and mocked people who identify their pronouns to show support for transgender rights, according to Disney.

"The coup de grace came in February 2021, when Carano admittedly reposted on Instagram a post comparing criticism of politically conservative viewpoints to the Holocaust in Nazi Germany," Disney said. "Carano’s decision to publicly trivialize the Holocaust by comparing criticism of political conservatives to the annihilation of millions of Jewish people — notably, not 'thousands'—was the final straw for Disney."

The 42-year-old actress and former mixed martial arts competitor sued in February, claiming she was "terminated from her role as swiftly as her character’s peaceful home planet of Alderaan had been destroyed by the Death Star in an earlier Star Wars film" because she stood up to the "online bully mob who demanded her compliance with their extreme progressive ideology."

"Contrary to defendants’ statement, at no point was Carano 'denigrating people based on their cultural and religious identities,' as Lucasfilm claimed," she said in the complaint. "Rather, she was doing just the opposite, opposing such denigration and targeting of people just because they hold different beliefs."

According to Carano, she was singled out because her political statements that didn't align with what Disney deems acceptable viewpoints, while Pedro Pascal, her male co-star on the series, suffered no adverse consequences for comparing the facilities housing detained immigrants at the Mexican border to the concentration camps of Nazi Germany.

Musk, who has opposed policing free speech on X, formerly Twitter, since he bought the platform in 2022, said last year that he will fund the legal bill of users who have been unfairly treated by their employers over their posts.

And last February, he reiterated his promise, singling out Disney and its subsidiaries for what he called "institutionalized racism and sexism" over the company's inclusion standards for underrepresented groups.

Disney was among a number of large companies that suspended advertising on X after reports that the platform placed ads for major brands such as Apple and IBM next to content that touts Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party. Musk has frequently called out the companies that pulled their ads and thereby devalued X, including by telling them “Go f--- yourself.”

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Categories / Courts, Entertainment, National, Politics

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