The actress didn’t directly name the millionaire businessman, though the behavior she described made it clear she was talking about Trump. Streep was the recipient of the Cecil B DeMille Award, a lifetime award that honors those who have made an impact on the entertainment world.
In her acceptance speech, she celebrated the diversity of Hollywood’s stars while recalling the incident in which Trump mocked a disabled journalist in November 2015.
“There was one performance this year that stunned me. It sank its hooks in my heart, not because it was good, it was – there’s nothing good about it. […] 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. It kind of broke my heart when I saw it and I still can’t get it out 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,” she said.
“Disrespect invites disrespect. Violence incites violence. When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose,” Streep added.
Hours after her speech, Trump reacted on Twitter, calling the actress “one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood” and a “Hillary flunky”. He then went on to explain that he was not mocking a disabled reporter, and said he “would never do that,” but that he simply showed him “‘groveling’ when he totally changed a 16 year old story that he had written in order to make me look bad.”
Designers and celebrities reacted on social media too, rallying around Streep. Givenchy’s Riccardo Tisci twice posted his support on Instagram, writing: “This is what a true leader looks like. We love you Meryl for speaking up.” He later added: “Still not over Meryl Streep and the realness of that speech, that kindness and poetry and beauty of soul is what we need in 2017.”