President-elect Donald Trump is not throwing away his chance to defend Mike Pence's honor on Twitter, despite the vice-president-elect's insistence that he was not offended when actor Brandon Victor Dixon addressed him at a performance of "Hamilton" on Friday evening.
During an appearance on "Fox News Sunday," Mr. Pence said he "wasn't offended" by Mr. Dixon's message, nor by the boos he elicited from the audience when he walked into the theater with his nephew and daughter. "That's what freedom sounds like," he reportedly told his daughter.
Pence praised the hit show and urged people to see it, drawing a stark contrast between himself and President-elect Trump, who criticized the cast in a series of tweets over the weekend and demanded that Dixon apologize to the future vice-president for his remarks on the need for diversity in America during the Trump presidency.
"We, sir, we are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights," Dixon, who plays America's third vice president, Aaron Burr, told the vice-president elect from the stage after the curtain call. "We truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us."
In response, Trump took to Twitter to demand an apology, claiming that the cast had "harassed" Pence, and calling the show "highly overrated."
"The Theater must always be a safe and special place," he wrote on Saturday. "The cast of Hamilton was very rude last night to a very good man, Mike Pence. Apologize!"
His response, and particularly his assertion that the theater "must always be a safe and special place," sparked debate online among Trump supporters and non-supporters on the role of artists in influencing, and commenting on, politics, particularly in today's polarized political climate. As Zhai Yun Tan reported for The Christian Science Monitor on Saturday:
The musical biography of Alexander Hamilton, performed by an ethnically diverse cast, emphasizes on the role immigrants played in founding America. The show underscores values that on the surface, at least, clash with President-elect Donald Trump’s hard-line stance toward immigrants....
The message came after Mr. Trump chose three individuals, who have been accused of harboring racist and anti-immigrant views, to lead his national security and law enforcement teams this week, amid a series of anti-Trump protests in cities around the country after the election. The Broadway show’s creators said in interviews that they were initially wary about injecting political statements into the performance – but finally decided it was important to let their voices be heard.
Many Americans felt differently, with some calling for Trump supporters to #BoycottHamilton.
"Completely inappropriate for the cast of #Hamilton to address Mike Pence like this. Not the time or the place. Time to #BoycottHamilton," wrote one Twitter user with the handle @TheGOPReport.
Another account, @mrmcoupe1, wrote: "Dear Mr. Pence. Thank you [for] visiting. Please sit there so we can lecture you. We won’t give you [a] chance to respond. Unfair. #boycotthamilton"
But to others, such as The Washington Post's chief theater critic, Peter Marks, the speech represented the valuable role of the theater and other art forms to a healthy democracy:
[T]heater makers of all ages should reflect – not gloatingly, but optimistically – on what this squabble has awakened. A musical that can be experienced by only 1,300 people a night on Broadway, and a similar number in Chicago, has ignited a nation. In other countries, with regimes that are overtly repressive, theater goes underground and becomes revered as one of the few outlets for free expression. One dearly hopes that we don’t get to the point where it would have to fulfill that role in this country. And yet, what this episode demonstrates heartendingly is that theater still has the power to hit a whole bunch of people where they live.
This report contains material from the Associated Press and Reuters.