by Fox News
About two weeks before New York City’s Shakespeare in the Park started taking heavy fire for their production of “Julius Caesar,” starring a Trump-inspired lead who (SPOILER ALERT) gets stabbed to death, CNN’s Fareed Zhakaria had already weighed in on the production.
The TV host tweeted on May 31 that the 2017 show was “Brilliantly interepreted for the Trump era. A masterpiece.”
If you’re in NYC, go see Julius Caesar, free in Central Park, brilliantly interpreted for Trump era. A masterpiece: http://bit.ly/2rUYIMR
It would turn out that not everyone agreed.
Delta Air Lines and Bank of America said Sunday that they were pulling their sponsorships of the Manhattan-based theater company’s production, which is free to the general public.
“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,” the company’s statement said. “Their artistic and creative direction crossed the line on the standards of good taste.”
Bank of America added it was withdrawing funding for the production.
“The Public Theater chose to present Julius Caesar in such a way that was intended to provoke and offend,” the bank said in a tweet. “Had this intention been made known to us, we would have decided not to sponsor it.”
American Express also took to Twitter and announced their sponsorship doesn’t support the play.
“We would like to clarify that our sponsorship of the Public Theater does not fund the production of Shakespeare in the Park nor do we condone the interpretation of the Julius Caesar play,” the financial corporation tweeted.
One sponsor that so far remains is the Time Warner Foundation, the philanthopic arm of the parent company of Zhakaria’s employer, CNN.
Performances at Central Park’s Delacorte Theater began in late May, just days before comedian Kathy Griffin was condemned for posing for a photograph with a bloodied rendering of Trump’s head, and later fired from her gig hosting CNN’s New Year’s Eve special.
Oskar Eustis, the Public Theater’s artistic director who also directed the play, said earlier in a statement that “anyone seeing our production of ‘Julius Caesar’ will realize it in no way advocates violence towards anyone.”
A spokesperson for the National Endowment for the Arts told Fox News funding wasn’t provided to “Julius Caesar.”
“The National Endowment for the Arts makes grants to nonprofit organizations for specific projects,” explained the spokesperson. “In the past, the New York Shakespeare Festival has received project-based NEA grants to support performances of Shakespeare in the Park by the Public Theater. However, no NEA funds have been awarded to support this summer’s Shakespeare in the Park production of ‘Julius Caesar’ and there are no NEA funds supporting the New York State Council on the Arts’ grant to Public Theater or its performances.”
The spokesperson added the last grant was awarded in 2016 for “The Taming of the Shrew” and “Troilus and Cressida.”
“We haven’t made any award to date for this year’s festival,” they said.
“Julius Caesar” tells a fictionalized story of a powerful, popular Roman leader who is assassinated by senators who fear he is becoming a tyrant. It is set in ancient Rome, but many productions have costumed the characters in modern dress to give it a present-day connection.
The production runs through June 18.
Fox News’ Stephanie Nolasco and The Associated Press contributed to this report.