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Video: 'Hamilton' actress maligns Ron DeSantis as Ku Klux Klan grand wizard during Tony Awards to giddy applause

John Lamparski/Getty Images/Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Broadway actress Denée Benton besmirched Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis as a Ku Klux Klan grand wizard during Sunday night's 2023 Tony Awards. The insult garnered giddy applause from the audience celebrating their fellow Broadway thespians.

The 76th Annual Tony Awards, also known as the Antoinette Perry Award for Excellence in Broadway Theatre, were held on Sunday at the United Palace theater in Manhattan’s Washington Heights neighborhood.

Benton was presenting the 2023 Excellence in Theater Education award to Jason Zembuch Young of South Plantation High School in Plantation, Florida.

"Hi. I'm Denée Benton, actor, and proud [Carnegie Mellon University] alum. Earlier tonight, CMU and the Tony Awards presented the 2023 Excellence in Theater Education Award, and while I am certain that the current Grand Wizard – I'm sorry, excuse me, governor of my home state of Florida..."

The "Hamilton" actress was interrupted by a resounding applause from the audience, which was jubilantly celebrating that the Republican presidential hopeful was disparagingly labeled as a leader of the Ku Klux Klan.

Benton continued by urging DeSantis to change the name of Plantation, "I am sure that he will be changing the name of this following town immediately, but we were honored to present this award to the truly incredible and life-changing Jason Zembuch Young, [for] enhancing the lives of students at South Plantation High School in Plantation, Florida."

Benton did not specify how DeSantis is like a leader of the white supremacist organization that is notorious for carrying out terrorism and acts of violence against blacks, immigrants, Jews, and other minority groups.

The town of Plantation was incorporated as a city on April 23, 1953, far after the days of the Antebellum South, with slavery and plantations.

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel explains the origins of the town of Plantation:

If it hadn’t been for a sick 2-year-old boy who loved grapes and pumpkins, this town — and perhaps all of Broward County west of State Road 7 — might still be swampland. According to his 1972 biography, Plantation’s founder, Frederick C. Peters, came to South Florida from St. Louis because a doctor told him his second son, Lewis, would probably get healthier in a warmer climate. A corpulent, deeply religious family man who was one of the heirs to a vast shoemaking empire, Peters bought 10,000 acres of swampland west of Fort Lauderdale for $25 an acre in 1941.

The outlet provides suggestions on how the town got its name:

There are a few theories about how Plantation got its name. According to one account, in the early 1900s, two Miami farmers made plans to grow small rice plantations. The plan failed miserably, but the label it gave to the area — “the plantation” — stuck. Another premise is that the original developers of the area advertised that every home would sit on a single acre, informally called small plantations.

The town of Plantation has no direct historical link to slavery.

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