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Meryl Streep won an Oscar for imitating the afflicted

11 January 2017

2:07 PM

11 January 2017

2:07 PM

At the Golden Globes ceremony, Meryl Streep attacked Donald Trump because he ‘imitated a disabled reporter’. ‘When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose,’ she added. It has not been explained over here that hers is a disputed version of what happened. The controversy began in November 2015, when Trump, campaigning, alleged that ‘thousands and thousands’ of Muslims in Jersey City had publicly celebrated the attack on the Twin Towers in September 2001. The allegation caused outrage, and it seems that Trump’s idea of numbers was wildly exaggerated.

However Trump’s people did produce evidence that such a celebration had taken place. One piece was a contemporary report in the Washington Post by Serge Kovaleski. Fourteen years later, Kovaleski attacked Trump but, when challenged, said he could not remember the details of the story. At a rally, Trump mocked Kovaleski for this excuse and made gestures which, critics alleged, aped Kovaleski’s withered hand. Trump supporters, however, point out that the gestures were almost exactly the same as those he used when he publicly mocked Ted Cruz and (separately) an American general, neither of whom is disabled. He was mimicking weaselly excuses, not disability.

If one can judge by the clips, the pro-Trump case looks quite strong. In any event, Meryl Streep should be careful when she speaks about disrespect for the afflicted. The makers of the film The Iron Lady, in which Ms Streep starred, produced a box-office hit about the senility of Margaret Thatcher, while Lady Thatcher was still alive. No Thatcher family or office permission was sought. Many thought the portrayal was intrusive. Meryl Streep won an Oscar for it, so she did very well out of imitating a vulnerable person in public. Her defence would probably be her favourite word — empathy. But this ‘empathy’ was imposed upon Lady Thatcher without regard for how she, or those close to her, might feel.

This is an extract from Charles Moore’s Notes. The full article is available in tomorrow’s issue of The Spectator.


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