Delta Air Lines and Bank of America pulled their sponsorship of New York City’s Public Theater, which hosts the popular "Shakespeare in the Park" series, after Donald Trump Jr. raised the question of whether its staging of Julius Caesar had crossed the line into political speech by depicting the violent assassination of Trump’s father, President Donald Trump.
“I wonder how much of this “art” is funded by taxpayers? Serious question, when does “art” become political speech & does that change things?," Trump said in a tweet.
I wonder how much of this "art" is funded by taxpayers? Serious question, when does "art" become political speech & does that change things? https://t.co/JfOmLLBJCn— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) June 11, 2017
Unsurprisingly, The New York Times - another sponsor, and ostensibly a politically neutral media organization – is standing by the theater.
As a reminder, CNN also called the play "a masterpiece," and publicly recommended it to others...
If you're in NYC, go see Julius Caesar, free in Central Park, brilliantly interpreted for Trump era. A masterpiece: https://t.co/RiJJnW3g8V— Fareed Zakaria (@FareedZakaria) May 31, 2017
Trump’s comment followed a report on “Fox and Friends” about the show, which depicts a president Trump look-alike in the role of Julius Caesar being stabbed to death by women and minorities. The show began on May 23, and is set to run through June 18 at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park.
Not only did the Caesar character resemble Trump, with blond hair and a long red tie, the actress playing his wife, Calpurnia, used a “slavic accent" meant to resemble Melania Trump’s.
Here’s the statement from Delta, courtesy of The New York Daily News:
“No matter what your political stance may be, the graphic staging of Julius Caesar at this summer’s Free Shakespeare in the Park does not reflect Delta Air Lines’ values,” a company spokesman said in a statement.
“Their artistic and creative direction crossed the line on the standards of good taste. We have notified them of our decision to end our sponsorship as the official airline of The Public Theater effective immediately.”
Bank of America offered similar reasoning, pointing out that the depiction of Trump was meant "to provoke and offend":
“Bank of America supports art programs worldwide, including an 11-year partnership with The Public Theater and Shakespeare in the Park,” a spokeswoman told the Daily News. “The Public Theater chose to present Julius Caesar in a way that was intended to provoke and offend. Had this intention been made known to us, we would have decided not to sponsor it.”
The show did include a warning about the violent nature of the assassination on The Public Theater’s website. And its artistic director, Oskar Eustis, said the production should not be taken literally.
“Julius Caesar can be read as a warning parable to those who try to fight for democracy by undemocratic means,” Eustis told the Daily News. “To fight the tyrant does not mean imitating him.”
Eustis had previously told The News that President Trump was more than welcome to see his shows, including “Hamilton,” which debuted at The Public Theater in February 2015 and moved to Broadway’s Richard Rodgers Theatre the following August.
“He’s the President of the United States,” he told The News. “I’m not going to say no to the President to see our show.”