She is one of those cultural icons easily identified by just one name: Meryl.
Meryl Streep is an acting chameleon — a dynamo of the stage and screen who transforms herself into any character she plays.
She is also a woman who is not afraid to speak her mind. And at the recent Golden Globe Awards Ceremony in Hollywood, she did just that.
Streep was the recipient of a special lifetime achievement award. And true to form, she stole the show.
She saluted her peers for the brilliant performances of the last year, which she described as “breathtaking, compassionate work.” But she went on to say there was one performance in 2016 that broke her heart.
- “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 and power and the capacity to fight back … 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 an incident where Donald Trump mocked New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski at a campaign rally. She said she feared Trump’s actions on the campaign trail would give permission to others to do the same thing.
- “Disrespect invites disrespect. Violence incites violence. When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose”
Her remarks hit a raw nerve in a politically divided America—overshadowing the glitz of the award ceremony with its array of Hollywood stars in their most opulent attire. For those who like Trump, they were inappropriate words from a left-leaving actress who had no business bringing politics into an event designed as pure entertainment. For those concerned about Trump, she was speaking truth to power.
Her speech went viral on social media and received more than a million YouTube views. Donald Trump – who Streep did not identify by name in her remarks — responded on Twitter, calling the three-time Academy Award winner “one of the most overrated actresses in Hollywood.”
So why did she do it? One theory is she wanted to slam Trump and his supporters. Another is that she wanted to issue a wake-up call to the rest of America about the possible coarsening of our country, and particularly the risk to freedom of the press.
The Golden Globes are voted on by a foreign press association in Hollywood and Streep made a segue from her comments about bullying and violence to the need for the news media to remain vigilant.
- “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.”
They were statements sure to warm the heart of any reporter — or at least the overwhelming majority of those employed by the mainstream media. And it is worth noting that Streep backed her words with action. She urged the wealthy in Hollywood to make contributions to the Committee to Protect Journalists, saying they will be needed to “safeguard the truth.” And she sent her own substantial check.
The CPJ says it had no idea that Streep would mention its work in her speech. The organization also says that donations poured in after the Golden Globes — with $88,000 donated in just the first day.
In the past, the Committee to Protect Journalists was best known for its work abroad, especially on behalf of those imprisoned or killed for practicing their craft. Turkey was sited in its last annual report as the country with the largest number of journalists in prison. Now, this New York-based organization is getting the resources to spend more of its time looking homeward as well.