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A former Tony Award nominee-turned presenter followed a hackneyed Broadway script Sunday night, likening White House hopeful and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to a Ku Klux Klan leader in the annual theater smug-fest’s latest attack on conservatives.
Denée Benton, currently starring in HBO’s “Gilded Age” and who was nominated for a Tony back in 2016 for her performance as Natasha Rostova in the musical “Natasha, Pierre, & The Great Comet of 1812,” lashed out at DeSantis at the Tony Awards on Sunday night.
“Earlier tonight, [Carnegie Mellon University] and the Tony Awards presented the 2023 Excellence in Theatre Education Award, and while I’m certain that the current grand wizard — I’m sorry, excuse me — governor of my home state of Florida, I am sure that he will be changing the name of this following town immediately,” she continued, as she mentioned the town of Plantation, where award-winner Jason Zembuch Young is a public school theatre director.
— The Hollywood Reporter (@THR) June 12, 2023
The New York City audience laughed at Benton’s characterization of DeSantis, just as a similar Tony Awards crowd cheered in 2018, when actor Robert DeNiro strode to the microphone and declared, “I’m gonna say one thing. F*** Trump.”
“It’s no longer ‘Down with Trump,’” he yelled. “It’s f*** Trump,” eliciting another giant cheer.
DeSantis has drawn criticism from the Left for opposing the teaching in public schools of Critical Race Theory, which among other things, holds that blacks are perpetual victims and whites are oppressors. In April 2022, the Florida Department of Education found 41% of math textbooks under consideration for schools included instruction on CRT, Social Emotional Learning, or other prohibited topics.
“We’re going to focus the education on the actual strong academic performance of the students; we don’t want things like math to have some of these other concepts introduced,” DeSantis said at the time. “It’s not been proven to be effective and quite frankly, it takes our eye off the ball.”
In May, DeSantis signed three bills into law that placed further restrictions on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives as Florida was recently ranked as the top state in the country for education.
The three bills that DeSantis signed were Senate Bill (SB) 266, which prohibits institutions from spending federal or state dollars on discriminatory “diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI)” initiatives; House Bill (HB) 931, which prohibits Florida’s public institutions from requiring students, faculty, or staff to take political loyalty tests; and SB 240, which expands workforce education initiatives and increases access to career and technical education (CTE) programs, according to the governor’s office.
SB 266 garnered the most news attention because it directly goes after woke ideologies in higher education by cutting off funding for “initiatives that promote dangerous political and social activism, such as DEI initiatives.” HB 931 prohibits schools from requiring “political statements and ideological attestations by faculty and students in hiring, promoting, and admissions.”
Ryan Saavedra contributed to this article.