Broadway actress Denée Benton compared the governor of Florida. Ron DeSantis to a Ku Klux Klan leader at Sunday’s Tony Awards.
Benton took the stage during the live broadcast on CBS and Paramount+ to present Carnegie Mellon University’s Excellence in Theater Education Award. Jason Zembuch Young of South Plantation High School in Plantation, Florida is the 2023 honoree.
In her remarks, Benton noted that in addition to being a CMU graduate, she is also from Florida.
“Tonight, CMU and the Tony Awards presented the 2023 Excellence in Theater Education Award. And while I’m sure the current Grand Wizard – I’m sorry, excuse me, governor – my home state of Florida…” she said to applause from the audience. “I am sure that he will change the name of this next city immediately. We should present this award to the truly incredible and life-changing Jason Zembuch Young who is making a difference in the lives of students at South Plantation High School in Plantation, Florida.”
“Great Wizard” is apparently a reference to the white supremacist Ku Klux Klan, which previously bestowed that title on its leader.
DeSantis, who announced his presidential candidacy last month, has yet to publicly comment on his social media channels. He is running for the Republicans, and his opponents include former President Donald Trump.
Since taking office in 2019, DeSantis has made many moves that have met with opposition and controversy from civil rights activists, including signing the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” legislation. He retaliated against the Walt Disney Co. when the company criticized the bill by abolishing the special tax district around Walt Disney World and seizing control of the district’s governing body.
Among other things, Benton appeared in Broadway shows Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812, Hamilton And In the forest. She also has TV appearances including Lifetime Unreal and HBO’s The Gilded Age.
Her comments were made without the author’s endorsement, as this year’s Tony Awards ceremony came amid the ongoing writers’ strike, after organizers reached an agreement with the WGA to go scriptless as a concession to the guild, which promised not to host the event demonstrate.