The National Endowment of the Arts was called "piss poor" and its employees accused of wanting President Trump dead after a play — that it didn't fund — depicted the assassination of Trump as Julius Caesar.
Supporters of President Trump accused the National Endowment for the Arts of wanting President Trump dead and one called the organization "piss poor" when it denied using taxpayer money to fund a controversial production of "Julius Caesar" in New York City.
New York's Shakespeare in the Park program, put on by The Public Theater, was the center of an outrage tornado last month when it was revealed the titular character looked a lot like Trump. Caesar is, of course, murdered during the play, and Trump's supporters were up in arms over the depiction of a presidential assassination being put on in a public setting.
The National Endowment for the Arts received eight emailed complaints about the play during the period between June 9 and June 12, according to records received by the Washington Examiner through the Freedom of Information Act.
While the National Endowment for the Arts, a taxpayer-funded nonprofit organization that makes grants to specific projects, had given money to The Public Theater's production of Shakespeare in the Park in past years, no taxpayer dollars were spent on this year's production of "Julius Caesar."
But one man, named Eric Stahl, still accused the endowment and its employees wanting Trump to die.
"‘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," Stahl wrote, quoting the NEA's official statement back to them.
"Let me add the part you left out ... ‘just our hopes and wishes that it comes true.' There, all better."
Lisa Bough, who said she's not a Trump supporter, accused the endowment of misusing taxpayer funds despite the fact that no taxpayer funds were spent on the play.
"The Central Park play is exactly why taxpayers hate grants and 501s. This is misusing tax payer funds. Grants are essentially excess taxes that are collected by the government who then appropriates to 501s. I don't like Trump but I do like my country; to depict the savagery against a sitting president maligns the county," Bough wrote.
"Your status as a 501 should end TODAY. NEA would not have funded savagery against former President Obama. You are disrespecting the office of US President. You should be ashamed. My next letter is to my DC representative asking them to withdraw you not for profit status."
A representative from the endowment responded to Bough and told her that no taxpayer dollars went toward the production of "Julius Caesar."
That explanation did not satisfy Bough.
"I do not like splitting hairs. The NEA receives taxpayer dollars, which makes it a taxpayer problem. It is piss poor when a government official wants to split whether it is direct or indirect access to taxpayer dollars," she wrote. "Let's defund NEA then, works for me it should work for the Senator. Government is broke and the Senator was part of the problem when Obama was in office, he now needs to step up to the plate and put country before politics."
It's not clear what senator Bough was referring to in her email.
The National Endowment for the Arts had, in the past, funded productions of The Public Theater's Shakespeare in the Park plays but did not in 2017.
A couple of complaints expressed the writer's general displeasure with the play and the production company's choice of depicting the titular character as the president.
"Is it true that you are allowing and funding Shakespeare in the Park in N.Y. to depict killing the U.S. President? If so, how can you possibly justify this hateful, anti-American hate speech?" wrote Karen Williams.
"I am revolted that my tax dollars in part have been used in the Shakespeare in the Park in NYC. I am all for freedom of speech and understand and appreciate art," wrote Lois Macri.
"However, I do not want my tax dollars used to fund the hint of a depiction of the assassination of the President of US. If people want to put on plays like this, they should fund them personally Does the staff at the Endowment for the Art (sic) look at every project every year?"
Doug Klappenbach wrote that he was a supporter of taxpayer dollars going to the arts, but not if he was paying for depictions of political violence.
"I have always been supportive of a portion of my tax dollars being used to support the arts. However the current play in New York depicting the brutal murder of President Trump is appalling," he wrote. "I will be contacting my senators, representatives and all influential members of appropriate committees to urge them to defund the National Foundation of the Arts if this play is not terminated immediately."
Klappenbach thanked an endowment employee for an explanation that none of his money went toward the play and said he would continue to support the organization.
Patricia Music also said she supported taxpayer dollars going toward the arts, but not for productions like this edition of "Julius Caesar."
"Please pull funding from the vicious play Julius Caesar in New York. I don't mind sponsoring art with tax dollars, but that's not art," she wrote. "It's an ugly and hateful attack on our President. Many voted for President Trump, and many former democrats have come over to the Republican side. I'm one of them, and there are a lot more. He's doing a good job. Please don't sponsor hate."
John Ace, of North Dakota, was not as conciliatory as others when he learned no taxpayer money went toward the play.
"The visual depiction of the current president getting assassinated is unacceptable... Pull all tax payer funding for this disgusting play," he wrote.
"It isn't art it (sic) a political statement. Do your job and cut funding now. Then halt all future funds to this so called non-profit, I will voice my complaint to the congressional appropriations committee to this waste. Our country is in debt and spending money for the arts is asinine."
After receiving the same boilerplate explanation that the NEA was not connected to the play, Ace remained unimpressed.
"Then halt all future funds to this so called non-profit, I will voice my complaint to the congressional appropriations committee to this waste. Our country is in debt and spending money for the arts is asinine," he wrote.
Donna Emelity, of Wisconsin, appeared to think she was writing to the production company itself and questioned the morality of putting on the "inflammatory and disgusting" play.
"As an American Citizen and tax payer, I am asking you to please terminate the play depicting President Trump being assassinated. How can it be morally acceptable to you, the members of the production team and actors? This is inflammatory and disgusting," she wrote.
"Your members desire to produce a play of hate for President Trump to make many anti-Trump American haters happy. But, please make them aware the use of American tax payers money should not be used for violence against the President.
I would be equally disturbed if this play was aimed at President Obama, which would also be destructive for Michelle and the Obama children as it is for the Trump family. Our President Trump deserves at least the respect that protects him from evil ideas of violent assassination."
Emelity was pleased to learn no taxpayer dollars went toward the play, but dismayed by the level of discourse in America at the moment.
"I am deeply saddened by this hateful group using tax payer money to spread violence against Trump. No talent is needed...just hate. Even more disturbing is that there will be violent and intolerant people ‘enjoying" the hate," she wrote. "What happened to America?"
Only one emailer to the endowment regarding the play was unhappy with the organization's decision to distance itself from the production.
"This is how the NEA responds to unfounded criticism? Distancing yourselves from controversial works to avoid public scrutiny? I understand that the art community is under attack under this administration, but this is not helping," wrote Michael Baker of Oakland, Calif.
"This language does a great disservice to the Public Theater, the New York Shakespeare Festival, to art and its audience, and to the principle of free speech in general. I hope you will evolve your PR approach and stand up to those who are trying to silence the Public Theater's production."