Meryl Streep, in a fiery speech criticizing President Trump on Saturday night, pledged to stand up against “brownshirts and bots” at a time when she and others are increasingly denouncing his administration’s policies and the president himself.
Ms. Streep, in New York City accepting an award from the Human Rights Campaign, referred to the backlash she received after the Golden Globes in January, when she gave a speech denouncing Mr. Trump.
“It’s terrifying to put the target on your forehead, 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 to feel you have to,” Ms. Streep said. “You have to. You don’t have an option. You have to.”
It was not immediately clear to whom Ms. Streep was referring in using the loaded term “brownshirts,” which was originally applied to a paramilitary group that assisted the rise of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany.
The speech was an even more stinging rebuke of Mr. Trump than her Golden Globes speech. She seemed to relish a new type of role: Trump provocateur. Although this time, Ms. Streep was without a national television audience. She took a moment to respond directly to Mr. Trump, who called her “overrated” in the midst of a barrage of posts on Twitter the morning after the Golden Globes.
“I am the most overrated, overdecorated and, currently, overberated actress, who likes football, of my generation,” Ms. Streep said.
The crowd applauded wildly.
Ms. Streep was receiving the National Ally for Equality Award from the Human Rights Campaign, an advocacy group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues. Near the beginning of her acceptance speech, she addressed, initially in a lighthearted way, one of the most controversial parts of her Golden Globes speech.
“I do like football,” Ms. Streep said, to a roar of laughter from the crowd at the Waldorf Astoria.
At the Golden Globes, Ms. Streep said, “Hollywood is crawling with outsiders and foreigners. If you kick them all out, you’ll have nothing to watch but football and mixed martial arts, which are not the arts.”
She received a torrent of criticism, particularly from conservatives, for disparaging the two sports, something she acknowledged in her speech and attempted to clarify what she meant.
“It isn’t helpful to make it us versus them,” Ms. Streep said.
Referring to the film producer and director Mike Nichols, she continued, “I was making a joke, and Mike Nichols told me, ‘If you have to explain the joke, Meryl, you’re doomed.’”
Later in the speech, she returned to criticizing Mr. Trump.
“If his catastrophic instinct to retaliate doesn’t lead us to nuclear winter, we will have much to thank this president for,” Ms. Streep said. “Because he will have woken us up to how fragile freedom really is.”
At one point, Ms. Streep referred to Mr. Trump as a “self-dealer,” and said, “The whip of the executive can through a Twitter feed lash and intimidate, punish and humiliate, delegitimize the press and imagined enemies with spasmodic irregularity and easily provoked predictability.”