Sponsors pull funding after Pres. Trump look-alike assassinated in ‘Julius Caesar’ play

FILE - In this May 21, 2017, file photo provided by The Public Theater, Tina Benko, left, portrays Melania Trump in the role of Caesar's wife, Calpurnia, and Gregg Henry, center left, portrays President Donald Trump in the role of Julius Caesar during a dress rehearsal of The Public Theater's Free Shakespeare in the Park production of Julius Caesar in New York. Teagle F. Bougere, center right, plays as Casca, and Elizabeth Marvel, right, as Marc Anthony. (Joan Marcus/The Public Theater via AP)

NEW YORK (AP) — Delta Air Lines and Bank of America have announced that they are pulling their sponsorship of a Manhattan-based theater company’s portrayal of Julius Caesar as a Donald Trump look-alike in a business suit who gets knifed to death on stage.

Atlanta-based Delta released a statement on Sunday saying it was pulling its sponsorship from The Public Theater “effective immediately.”

“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 statement said. “Their artistic and creative direction crossed the line on the standards of good taste.”

Later Sunday night, Charlotte, North Carolina-based Bank of America said it was withdrawing its 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.”

Performances at Central Park’s Delacorte Theater began in late May, just days before comedian Kathy Griffin was widely condemned for posing for a photograph in which she gripped a bloodied rendering of Trump’s head.

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.”

Messages seeking comment from The Public Theater weren’t immediately returned.

Earlier Sunday, Donald Trump Jr. retweeted a Fox News story about the play and wrote, “I wonder how much of this ‘art’ is funded by taxpayers? Serious question, when does ‘art’ become political speech & does that change things?”

“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.

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