Before Meryl Streep, these Celebrities Waded into Politics | Washington Week

Before Meryl Streep, these Celebrities Waded into Politics

By Joan E. Greve

Meryl Streep became the latest target of Donald Trump’s tweeting ire Monday, after she denounced the president-elect’s “instinct to humiliate” during a speech at the Golden Globes. The three-time Academy Award-winning actress, who Trump dismissed as “one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood,” specifically cited an incident from last November, when Trump appeared to mock New York Times reporter Serge F. Kovaleski, who has arthrogryposis. (Trump has repeatedly denied that he was imitating or that he even knew of the journalist’s condition, which can affect one’s range of motion, but Politifact has rated that claim as “false.”)


While Steep’s critical speech attracted many headlines, it is far from the first time that a celebrity has spoken out about a politician or policy, even at an awards ceremony. Here are six examples of Hollywood getting political.

1. Marlon Brando left his mark in Academy Awards history when he refused to accept the 1973 Best Actor Oscar for his role in The Godfather. Brando sent the Native American actress Sacheen Littlefeather in his place, which gave her the chance to explain that Brando was protesting Hollywood’s depiction of Native Americans. 

2. A year earlier and far away from an awards show stage, actress Jane Fonda had caused an uproar over her visit to Vietnam. Fonda was critical of some U.S. military actions during the Vietnam War and was controversially photographed sitting on a Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun, earning her the nickname “Hanoi Jane.” The incident continues to haunt Fonda, who was protested by war veterans as recently as 2015.

3. While Hollywood has a reputation for liberal leanings, many big names have come out in support of conservative causes and candidates, including Clint Eastwood. During the 2012 Republican National Convention, Eastwood gave a “rambling” speech that involved addressing an imaginary President Obama, symbolized by an empty stool. The award-winning actor and director interrogated “Obama” about the unemployment rate and America’s military involvements.

4. Celebrities also made an appearance at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, in the form of a campaign video. Elizabeth Banks, the director of Pitch Perfect, co-produced a video for Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid that featured 35 celebrities singing her campaign anthem, “Fight Song.”

5. A month before the Democratic National Convention, Amy Schumer also offered her political opinion, but on congressional matters. Schumer, who became involved in gun control issues following a shooting at a screening of her film Trainwreck, slammed the “cowardice” of lawmakers opposed to reform. The actress and comedian has even worked with her second-cousin, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), to advocate for universal background checks.

6. And, in a few cases, Hollywood and Washington collided in the ultimate fashion when actors ran for office. The most notable example is, of course, President Ronald Reagan, whose television and film career spanned nearly three decades before he became governor of California. About thirty years after Reagan left the California governor’s mansion, another actor entered: Arnold Schwarzenegger. Schwarzenegger now hosts the Celebrity Apprentice, the same reality television show that helped to make President-elect Donald Trump a household name.


Schwarzenegger photo via flickr / Gage Skidmore
Fonda photo via flickr / Joshua Barash
Banks photo via flickr / David Shankbone