Disney CEO Bob Iger quoted the Broadway smash "Hamilton" to defend his involvement in President Trump's business advisory council, saying he wants to be "in the room where it happens."
Iger's remarks at Disney's annual shareholder meeting came in response to an audience member at the Denver confab who criticized his relationship with Trump as a tacit endorsement of the president's policies on issues such as immigration.
But Iger rejected that accusation, referring to the "Hamilton" number "The Room Where It Happens," which is about having influence and access to closed-door meetings where policy is set.
Iger said the council gives members an opportunity to express opinions to the president that otherwise might not get a hearing from the administration. He adamantly insisted his involvement does not imply support for any specific policies and reiterated he does not intend to step down from the council position.
"I made a decision I thought was in the best interest of our company and the industry," Iger said. "I think it's a privileged opportunity to be in the room."
Iger, a Democrat who supported Hillary Clinton in the presidential election, has been criticized on social media for not quitting the panel. He's the lone entertainment executive among the group. Uber CEO Travis Kalanick left the panel under intense public pressure following the rollout of Trump's initial travel ban.
In response to a grilling from shareholder representatives over Trump's policies, Iger offered a vigorous argument for the business benefits of allowing people into the country to work. He added the he is against policies that single out particular religious groups, a reference to the Trump administration's moves that some have said discriminate against Muslims.
“I happen to believe this company has benefited over the years in so many different ways, as has this country, [because of] an open and fair and just immigration policy,” Iger said. “We are who we are as a country because of great immigration.”
He cited Disney's 2016 animated hit "Zootopia" as evidence of the company's humanitarian values. "Zootopia," which grossed more than $1 billion, is about an advanced society of animals that deals with prejudice between its herbivore and carnivore populations.
"You don't make a movie [like] 'Zootopia,' which is preaching tolerance...unless you believe fundamentally in that ideal and that value," Iger said.
[12:15 p.m.: This post was updated to include additional quotes from Iger.]