Elon Musk funds Gina Carano’s lawsuit against Disney over ‘Mandalorian’ firing

The actress Gina Carano is suing Disney over being dropped from “The Mandalorian” TV show in 2021 — a lawsuit funded by Elon Musk, who has taken swipes at the conglomerate since it withdrew advertising dollars from the social media platform he owns last year.

Musk — who purchased Twitter in October 2022 with the intention of transforming it into a town square of unpoliced free speech — has promised to fund lawsuits for people “unfairly treated” by their employers over their posts or activity on the platform, which he has rebranded as X.

He reiterated that promise Tuesday after Carano filed a lawsuit financed by X against Disney and its subsidiary Lucasfilm, in which she asked for damages and for her role to be reinstated on the Emmy-winning TV show.

Carano played Cara Dune in “The Mandalorian,” an addition to the Star Wars franchise that premiered in November 2019. A former mixed martial artist, her casting and performance initially drew positive reviews, but controversy over her social media activity culminated in her being dropped from the show in February 2021 after she posted an Instagram story that was taken by many critics as a comparison between having right-wing views and being a Jew during the Holocaust.

Gina Carano is off ‘The Mandalorian’ over ‘abhorrent and unacceptable’ social media posts, Lucasfilm says

Backlash against the post sparked the trending hashtag #FireGinaCarano on what was then Twitter. In a statement at the time, Lucasfilm said that Carano’s “social media posts denigrating people based on their cultural and religious identities are abhorrent and unacceptable,” and that there were no plans to employ her.

On Tuesday, Carano denied making the comparison. The text from her Instagram story, which was later deleted, was accompanied by a disturbing Nazi-era photo and argued that before “soldiers could easily round up thousands of Jews, the government first made their own neighbors hate them simply for being Jews. How is that any different from hating someone for their political views?”

In the lawsuit, Carano’s attorneys allege that she was fired in retaliation for the “lawful exercise of her right to speak and express her views.” She was previously criticized for social media activity that included liking posts that disparaged the Black Lives Matter movement, mocking coronavirus mask-wearing as a Democratic Party conspiracy and echoing former president Donald Trump’s baseless claims of voter fraud in the 2020 election.

In a Tuesday statement on X, Carano said she was “being hunted down” online because her views were not “in line with the acceptable narrative at the time,” and that a lawyer hired by X had contacted her after she responded to Musk’s offer to fund legal representation.

“My words were consistently twisted to demonize & dehumanize me as an alt-right wing extremist,” she said. “It was a bullying smear campaign aimed at silencing, destroying & making an example out of me.”

In a statement, Carano’s lawyers argued that her male co-stars were not disciplined for sharing their political views against Republicans on social media, “even though some would find their statements abhorrent.”

X, Disney and Lucasfilm did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Grant Kien, a professor at the Department of Communication of California State University at East Bay, who studies technology and culture, said Musk is probably funding the lawsuit to curry favor with conservatives, a segment of whom have supported Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s ongoing feud with Disney, which he has characterized as a “woke corporation.”

A timeline of the DeSantis-Disney feud

“Taking on Disney is sort of a right-wing virtue signal right now. … Disney is seen as this company that is exemplifying what is wrong with America — it’s part of this ‘anti-wokeness’ idea,” Kien said. “But there’s also another part of this that’s more likely closer to Musk: He has a personal motivation to fight with Disney, especially publicly, since they pulled advertising from X.”

In the fall, companies including Disney, Apple, IBM, Paramount and Warner Bros. suspended advertising on X after the watchdog group Media Matters reported that the platform was placing corporate ads next to antisemitic and pro-Nazi posts. Musk had also tweeted in agreement with a user who blamed the rise in online antisemitism on Jews and said that Jewish people promoted “hatred against whites.”

Musk responded to the report by filing what he called a “thermonuclear lawsuit” against Media Matters. He has since repeatedly railed against advertisers that pulled their funding, Disney in particular, and said the advertising boycott of X would “kill the company.”

Musk appears to be cultivating a public image that appeals to the far right, Kien said.

“They’re the only ones who haven’t abandoned him,” he said. “As the bigger companies have been leaving the platform, the gaps are being filled with smaller advertisers, which are typically more extreme, and it keeps going in that direction.” Right-wing figures such as Andrew Tate, Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes and Babylon Bee CEO Seth Dillon have pledged hundreds of thousands of dollars in advertising money for X.

“It’s part of his public image of [calling himself] the ‘free speech absolutionist,’” Kien said. “This particularly appeals to the right — the extreme right — because they don’t like being silenced or being told they’re wrong. It’s part of the X brand now.”

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Eli Tan, Herb Scribner and Timothy Bella contributed to this report.

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