While many Americans are praising the cast of the hit Broadway musical Hamilton for comments they addressed to Vice President-elect Mike Pence Friday night, others have stepped up to defend Pence.
On Saturday, Rolling Stone reported that Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band guitarist Steven Van Zandt “called upon” Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator of Hamilton and one of its actors, to apologize to Pence.
Van Zandt added the caveat that “everyone who is sane disagrees with [Pence’s] policies,” according to Rolling Stone, but accused Miranda and his cast of nevertheless “bullying” Pence.
“It was the most respectful, benign form of bullying ever. But bullying nonetheless.” https://t.co/D4sib8Ufz6
— USA TODAY (@USATODAY) November 21, 2016
“Hamilton made a mistake,” Van Zandt said in a tweet at 7:59 a.m. Saturday morning.
“Audiences shouldn’t have to worry about being blindsided like that. Theater should be sanctuary for Art to speak.”
The tweet sparked a flurry of responses between Van Zandt and other Twitter users.
“Lin-Manuel is a genius,” a subsequent tweet from Van Zandt reads.
“He has created the greatest play since West Side Story. He is also a role model. This sets a terrible precedent.”
In his next tweet, Van Zandt tagged Miranda.
“Completely inappropriate. Theater should be a safe haven for Art to speak. Not the actors. He needs to apologize to Mike Pence
At one point, Richard Belzer of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and Homicide: Life on the Street stepped into the Twitter debate.
“Stevie stop going through ethical gymnastics to justify your way too thin logic!,” the television icon said in a tweet replying to Van Zandt’s.
Van Zandt replied directly to Belzer.
“I love you Richard. You want to do this in public? We can. The Broadway Community and its Art need to be protected. My logic is impeccable.”
Van Zandt finally abandoned the argument at 8:29 p.m. Saturday night, after responding to dozens of tweets directed at him, many of which accused him of supporting or endorsing Pence.
“Ok. Enough. I’m done,” Van Zandt said.
“Summing up-1) You want to compare yourself to them, good luck. 2) Treating people with civility is NOT AN ENDORSEMENT!”
Steven Van Zandt probably seemed like an unlikely candidate to step up to defend Pence, considering that the E Street Band backs Bruce Springsteen on tour. Springsteen was outspokenly opposed to Trump throughout the election cycle.
In one of his more famous criticisms, Springsteen referred to Trump as a “moron.”
“The republic is under siege by a moron, basically,” he told Rolling Stone in September.
“The whole thing is tragic. Without overstating it, it’s a tragedy for our democracy.”
Steven Van Zandt has toured with Springsteen and the E Street Band since the 1970s.
It should be clarified that Van Zandt criticized Pence repeatedly in his tweets. Both he and Springsteen have a record of speaking out on behalf of liberal causes.
In Van Zandt’s opinion, based on his tweets, he was criticizing the Hamilton cast for what he saw as a form of public bullying, regardless of the political perspective.
It should also be noted that the message the Hamilton cast sent to Pence was not overtly hostile.
It was Brandon Dixon, who plays Aaron Burr in Hamilton, who addressed Mike Pence on Friday evening after the musical was finished.
“We have a message for you, sir. We hope that you will hear us out,” Dixon said after calling Pence by name, according to a partial transcript available at the Huffington Post.
“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 continued in that vein for a few moments.
Pence “wasn’t offended” by the comments according to a report from Newsday. He referred to the musical as “a great show” and said, “hats off to the cast and the extraordinary team.”
— The Hill (@thehill) November 21, 2016
Donald Trump, on the other hand, was not so forgiving.
“The Theater must always be a safe and special place,” Trump tweeted at 5:56 a.m. Saturday morning. “The cast of Hamilton was very rude last night to a very good man, Mike Pence. Apologize!”
His tweets sounded a lot like those of Steven Van Zandt.
[Featured image by Larry Busacca/Getty Images]