Actor Denée Benton calls Ron DeSantis the “Grand Wizard” in his Tony Awards speech.

Actress Denée Benton took aim at Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis during Sunday’s Tony Awards broadcast and dubbed the Republican presidential nominee a “Great Magician” as she presented an award for theater education.

Benton paid tribute to 2023 Excellence in Theater Education Award winner Jason Zembuch Young of South Plantation High School in Plantation, Fla. Noting that she is from Florida, Benton referenced DeSantis’ many controversial civil rights moves in the state, linking him to the white supremacist organization Klu Klux Klan.

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“I’m sure that the current great magician — I’m sorry, excuse me, Governor of my home state of Florida,” Benton said to thunderous applause from the crowd at the historic United Palace Theater in Washington Heights. Benton appeared to nod to DeSantis’ Florida legislative push to enact racist and discriminatory measures restricting school curricula to American history, among other disturbing moves during his tenure.

Benton is a Broadway veteran, having recently appeared in shows such as “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812.” She is also known for her work on television series such 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 kicked off his 2024 presidential election with an announcement on Twitter that was initially flawed. According to polls, DeSantis is a wide margin behind former President Donald Trump at this early point in the Republic primary.

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

The story goes on

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