Broadway actor Denée Benton had a few choice words when referring to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis at Sunday’s Tony Awards.
Benton took the stage to present the Carnegie Mellon University-sponsored Excellence in Theatre Education Award. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the CMU alum used her platform and talked about being born and raised in Florida and the challenges Black people face under DeSantis’ policies.
“Earlier tonight, CMU and the Tony Awards presented the 2023 Excellence in Theatre Education Award,” she said. “And while I am certain that the current Grand Wizard — I’m sorry, excuse me, governor — of my home state of Florida…” she continued to applause. “I am sure that he will changing the name of this following town immediately. We were honored to present this award to the truly incredible and life-changing Jason Zembuch Young, enhancing the lives of students at South Plantation High School in Plantation, Florida.”
— The Hollywood Reporter (@THR) June 12, 2023
The audience praised Benton for calling out the governor during the live broadcast.
The outlet mentioned “Grand Wizard” is considered the national leader of the white supremacy group Ku Klux Klan.
DeSantis has not addressed Benton’s comments publicly.
The governor announced his run for president last month and shared the changes he would make if elected president. Since taking office in 2019, he has passed controversial laws aimed at Black and brown people and the LGBTQ+ community.
Earlier this year, Blavity reported DeSantis’ announcement of a bill that would eliminate funding for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion programs across all of Florida’s universities. The bill was a part of several policies he initiated under the state’s “education reform.”
DeSantis signed the bill into law in May, restricting the state from spending money on DEI programs.
“If you look at the way this has actually been implemented across the country, DEI is better viewed as standing for discrimination, exclusion and indoctrination,” DeSantis said in a statement obtained from NPR. “And that has no place in our public institutions.”
DeSantis also passed several bills targeting the LGBTQ+ community, including the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which advises teachers not to educate children on sexual orientation in the state’s schools.
Additionally, he has a pending rift with Walt Disney Co. over the controversial bill. He then retaliated against the company by eliminating the special tax district around Walt Disney World, per THR.