It’s no secret that Hollywood skews liberal, and there were probably few Donald Trump fans in the audience at Sunday’s Golden Globes. And although the awards show kicked off with a few jokes at the president-elect’s expense, Meryl Streep took a serious tone to address the recent presidential election.
Streep accepted the Cecil B. DeMille Award — basically a lifetime achievement award — but didn’t say much about her career. Instead, she spent the minutes allotted to her to speak critically of the current political climate and Trump, although she did not mention the president-elect by name.
“There was one performance this year that stunned me,” she said. “It sank its hooks in my heart. Not because it was good. There was nothing good about it. But it was effective, and it did its job. It made its intended audience laugh and show their teeth.
“It was that moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter. Someone he outranked in privilege, power and the capacity to fight back. It kind of broke my heart when I saw it. I still can’t get it out of my head because it wasn’t in a movie. It was real life.”
Streep was referring to Trump’s remarks during the campaign, when he appeared to mock New York Times reporter Serge F. Kovaleski, who has arthrogryposis, which visibly limits the functioning of his joints.
“And this instinct to humiliate, when it’s modeled by someone in the public platform, by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody’s life, because it kind of gives permission for other people to do the same thing,” the actress said.
You can watch the full, unedited version of the speech here:
Trump responded in a brief interview with the New York Times shortly after the Golden Globes aired. He told the Times he had not seen the speech, but he dismissed Streep as “a Hillary lover” and said that he was “not surprised” to be attacked by “liberal movie people.” (Streep spoke in support of Clinton at the 2016 Democratic National Convention.)
As Monday dawned, the president-elect followed up with a trio of tweets lambasting Streep’s speech, calling it an attack on him.
In addition, Trump referred to her as “one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood” and “a Hillary flunky who lost big.”
In her nearly four-decades-long career, Streep has been nominated for 30 Golden Globe awards and 19 Academy Awards, more than any other actor for either honor. She has won both awards multiple times, along with numerous Emmys and Screen Actors Guild Awards.
When Streep was named as a Kennedy Center Honors recipient, the performing-arts center noted that “the sheer breadth and joy of her artistry counts as one of the most exhilarating cultural spectacles of our time.”
The American Film Institute presented her with its Life Achievement Award in 2004, citing “her unparalleled talent and integrity.” A decade later, Streep received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, with the White House calling her “one of our nation’s greatest actors.”
And in 2015, Trump referenced Streep when asked by The Hollywood Reporter, “any actress you love?”
“Julia Roberts is terrific, and many others. Meryl Streep is excellent; she’s a fine person, too,” Trump said in 2015. “The problem is I’ll name three or four or five and then the hundred that I know will be insulted, and I don’t mean to insult them.”
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Monday that Streep “clearly was delivering a thoughtful, carefully considered message that she believes in deeply.”
“And it seemed to me to be a fairly straightforward exercise of her First Amendment rights as a citizen of the United States,” Earnest said during a press briefing. He added he hadn’t spoken to President Obama about the Golden Globes speech.
On Monday, Trump added that Streep’s attack was unfounded, writing: “For the 100th time, I never ‘mocked’ a disabled reporter (would never do that) but simply showed him ‘groveling’ when he totally changed a 16 year old story that he had written in order to make me look bad. Just more very dishonest media!”
Trump has made that claim before — and in August, The Washington Post’s Fact Checker gave it “Four Pinocchios.”
“It remains a mystery why Trump feels the need to revisit past controversies, particularly ones that reflect poorly on his tenor and judgment,” The Post’s Glenn Kessler wrote then. “But, as the evidence shows, Trump clearly mocked Kovaleski — who in any case never ‘groveled’ or in any way took back his reporting.”
Kellyanne Conway, a senior adviser to Trump and his former campaign manager, appeared on “Fox and Friends” on Monday morning to criticize Streep for not trying to unite people.
“I’m concerned that somebody with a platform like Meryl Streep is also, I think, inciting people’s worst instincts,” Conway said on the show.
On Sunday, Streep delivered her speech in a raspy voice after an introduction by Viola Davis that paid homage to the actress and her storied career.
Here are Streep’s full remarks:
Thank you very much. Thank you. Please sit down. Please sit down. Thank you. I love you all. You’ll have to forgive me. I’ve lost my voice in screaming and lamentation this weekend. And I have lost my mind sometime earlier this year. So I have to read.
Thank you, Hollywood foreign press. Just to pick up on what Hugh Laurie said, you and all of us in this room, really, belong to the most vilified segments in American society right now. Think about it: Hollywood, foreigners and the press. But who are we, and what is Hollywood, anyway? It’s just a bunch of people from other places. I was born and raised and educated in the public schools of New Jersey. Viola was born in a sharecropper’s cabin in South Carolina, came up in Central Falls, Rhode Island. Sarah Paulson was born in Florida and raised by a single mom in Brooklyn.
Sarah Jessica Parker was one of seven or eight kids from Ohio. Amy Adams was born in Vicenza, Italy, and Natalie Portman was born in Jerusalem — where are their birth certificates? And the beautiful Ruth Negga was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, raised in — no, in Ireland, I do believe, and she’s here, nominated for playing a small-town girl from Virginia. Ryan Gosling, like all the nicest people, is Canadian. And Dev Patel was born in Kenya, raised in London, is here for playing an Indian raised in Tasmania. So Hollywood is crawling with outsiders and foreigners. And if we kick them all out, you’ll have nothing to watch but football and mixed martial arts, which are not the arts.
They gave me three seconds to say this, so. An actor’s only job is to enter the lives of people who are different from us and let you feel what that feels like. And there were many, many, many powerful performances this year that did exactly that — breathtaking, compassionate work. There was one performance this year that stunned me. It sank its hooks in my heart. Not because it was good. There was nothing good about it. But it was effective and it did its job. It made its intended audience laugh and show their teeth. It was that moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter. Someone he outranked in privilege, power and the capacity to fight back. It kind of broke my heart when I saw it. I still can’t get it out of my head because it wasn’t in a movie. It was real life.
And this instinct to humiliate, when it’s modeled by someone in the public platform, by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody’s life, because it kind of gives permission for other people to do the same thing.
Disrespect invites disrespect. Violence incites violence. And when the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose. Okay. Go on with that thing.
This brings me to the press. We need the principled press to hold power to account, to call them on the carpet for every outrage. That’s why our founders enshrined the press and its freedoms in our Constitution. So I only ask the famously well-heeled Hollywood foreign press and all of us in our community, to join me in supporting the Committee to Protect Journalists, because we’re going to need them going forward, and they’ll need us to safeguard the truth.
One more thing. Once when I was standing around on the set one day whining about something — we were going to work through supper, or the long hours or whatever — Tommy Lee Jones said to me, “Isn’t it such a privilege, Meryl, just to be an actor?” Yeah, it is. And we have to remind each other of the privilege and the responsibility of the act of empathy. We should all be very proud of the work Hollywood honors here tonight. As my friend the dear departed Princess Leia said to me once, “Take your broken heart, make it into art.”
This post has been updated.