Denée Benton, know for her roll in Broadway’s Hamilton, used her time announcing the 2023 Excellence in Theater Education Award at the 76th Tony Awards to take a shot at Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. Benton called DeSantis “the current Grand Wizard,” inferring that he is the leader of the Ku Klux Klan.
See her potshot below:
“Hi. I’m Denée Benton, actor and proud [Carnegie Mellon University] alum. Earlier tonight, CMU and the Tony Awards presented the 2023 Excellence in Theater Education Award, and while I am certain that the current Grand Wizard — I’m sorry, excuse me, Governor of my home state of Florida…” The audience then erupted in cheers.
She continued, “I am sure that he will be changing the name of this following town immediately, but we were honored to present this award to the truly incredible and life-changing Jason Zembuch Young, [for] enhancing the lives of students at South Plantation High School in Plantation, Florida.”
— The Hollywood Reporter (@THR) June 12, 2023
The politically motivated, off color remark by Benton comes following the NAACP issuing a travel advisory for Florida. The Board of Directors issued the travel advisory on May 20th.
NAACP President Derrick Johnson stated, “Let me be clear – failing to teach an accurate representation of the horrors and inequalities that Black Americans have faced and continue to face is a disservice to students and a dereliction of duty to all. Under the leadership of Governor Desantis, the state of Florida has become hostile to Black Americans and in direct conflict with the democratic ideals that our union was founded upon. He should know that democracy will prevail because its defenders are prepared to stand up and fight. We’re not backing down, and we encourage our allies to join us in the battle for the soul of our nation.”
The move by the NAACP comes after DeSantis has taken a strong stance against Critical Race Theory in schools.
While CRT is pushed by the education department, many parents and some lawmakers are pushing back against what they see as racist curriculum.