Actor Denee Benton Slams Ron DeSantis as ‘Grand Wizard’ in Tony Awards Speech

Actor Denée Benton took aim at Florida Governor Ron DeSantis during Sunday’s Tony Awards telecast, referring to the Republican presidential hopeful as a “Grand Wizard” as she presented an award for theater education.

On CBS’ live telecast, Benton saluted the 2023 recipient of the excellence in theater education award, Jason Zembuch Young of South Plantation High School in Plantation, Florida. Benton noted that she is a Florida native and she made reference to DeSantis’ many controversial moves on civil rights in the state by connecting him to the Klu Klux Klan white supremacist organization.

“I’m certain that the current grand wizard — I’m sorry, excuse me, governor of my home state of Florida,” Benton said, to a roar of applause from the crowd at the historic United Palace Theater in Washington Heights. Benton seemed to nod to DeSantis’ legislative push in Florida to enact racist and discriminatory policies restricting school curriculums on American history, among other disturbing moves during his time in office.

Benton is a veteran of Broadway, having appeared in such recent shows as “Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812.” She’s also known for her work on such TV series as Lifetime’s “Unreal” and HBO’s “The Gilded Age.”

DeSantis has been at the helm of the Sunshine State since 2019. Last month he launched his 2024 presidential with an announcement on Twitter that was glitchy at the start. Polls have DeSantis running a distant second to former President Donald Trump at this early juncture for the Republic primaries.

The governor has directly taken on Hollywood through his battles with Disney over special tax breaks and perks that the Disney World owner has long enjoyed. DeSantis is also a pariah on Broadway and in Hollywood for championing “Don’t Say Gay” legislation that threatens to reverse decades of hard-won civil rights gains.

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