Tony Award Presenter Gets Raucous Ovation After Calling DeSantis Florida’s ‘Grand Wizard’


While presenting at this weekend’s Tony Awards, actor Denée Benton referred to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) as the state’s “grand wizard,” which got a lively reaction at the history-making ceremony.

Benton, who is Tony-nominated herself, quipped and then “corrected” herself while mentioning the governor in her presentation of the 2023 recipient of the Excellence in Theater Education Award, Jason Zembuch Young. She did not mention DeSantis by name, but as the “current grand wizard — I’m sorry, excuse me, governor of my home state of Florida.” Also notable about the quip is that it was Benton’s own ad lib since the show went on without writers due to the ongoing writers strike.

The audience went wild for the slam, which equated DeSantis with a leader of the Ku Klux Klan. During his tenure as governor of Florida, DeSantis has banned colleges in the state from having programs on diversity, equality, and inclusion as well as critical race theory. He is also famous for a law critics have labeled the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which targets the teaching of sexual orientation and gender identity in schools.

DeSantis has made the culture wars a prominent part of his 2024 presidential run, declaring the state of Florida “where ‘woke’ goes to die.”

This year’s Tony Award winners made history with two acting awards going to openly nonbinary performers — Alex Newell won for Best Featured Actor in a Musical (Shucked) and J. Harrison Ghee won Best Leading Actor in a Musical (Some Like It Hot).

Watch above, via CBS.

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