NEW YORK — In an emotional speech by turns tearful, defiant and humorous, Meryl Streep doubled down on her harsh criticism of President Donald Trump, and spoke of having become a target since she first took him on in her Golden Globes speech in January.
Addressing a cheering audience at a fundraising gala for the Human Rights Campaign, a national LGBT group, Streep referred to Trump's tweet after her Globes speech, in which he called the celebrated actress "overrated."
"Yes, I am the most overrated, over-decorated and currently, I am the most over-berated actress ... of my generation," she said to laughs.
She noted that she wished she could simply stay home "and load the dishwasher" rather than take a podium to speak out — but that "the weight of all these honors" she's received in her career compelled her to speak out.
"It's terrifying to put the target on your forehead," she said. "And it sets you up for all sorts of attacks and armies of brownshirts and bots and worse, and the only way you can do it is if you feel you have to. You have to! You don't have an option. You have to."
Streep did not elaborate on the type of attacks she may have been subjected to since her Globes speech, or from whom. The Associated Press reached out to her publicist for details. The term "brownshirts" was first used to describe an early Nazi militia.
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Streep was receiving the group's National Ally for Equality Award, and was the huge draw of the evening. Introduced by filmmaker Ken Burns, she took the stage to a thunderous ovation. After a humorous defense of her remarks in her Globes speech that football and martial arts weren't arts, which had drawn some criticism — she clarified that she indeed likes football, too — the actress praised the organization for defending LGBT rights, and spoke about two teachers — one transgender, one gay — who had influenced her childhood in suburban New Jersey.
She then spoke about how early cultures had always put men at the top, but at some point in the 20th century, women, people of color and other minorities began achieving their deserved rights. Progress was fast, and so now, "We shouldn't be surprised that fundamentalists, of all stripes, everywhere, are exercised and fuming," she said.
Turning to Trump, she said: "But if we live through this precarious moment — if his catastrophic instinct to retaliate doesn't lead us to nuclear winter — we will have much to thank this president for. Because he will have woken us up to how fragile freedom really is."
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The country has now learned, she said, "how the authority of the executive, in the hands of a self-dealer, can be wielded against the people, and the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The whip of the executive can, through a Twitter feed, lash and intimidate, punish and humiliate, delegitimize the press and all of the imagined enemies with spasmodic regularity and easily provoked predictability."
At the end, Streep made a passionate call for religious liberty — the right, as she said," to live our lives with God or without Her."
"All of us have the human right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," she said.
"If you think people were mad," she closed, "when they thought the government was coming after their guns, wait until you see when they try to take away our happiness."
Streep, 67, received a record 20th Oscar nomination in January.