The Best Political Moments From the Emmy Awards

“Get ready for what promises to be a very political Emmys,” TIME promised a few days before the awards show broadcast Sept. 17. With Stephen Colbert hosting, and shows like “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “Saturday Night Live” nominated for 35 awards between them, the 69th Emmy Awards met those expectations.

Colbert had told Variety he planned to maintain his balance to win over TV audience members who weren’t interested in politics.

“It’s not a political monologue, but you can’t keep politics out of it, because politics was the biggest TV story this year,” he said. “The biggest story of the year is not ‘Westworld.’ It’s not ‘The Handmaid’s Tale.’ It’s not Milo Ventimiglia’s luscious abs. That’s not what we cared about. The biggest TV star of the year is Donald Trump.”

So, just how political was the Emmy Awards, and how often was “the biggest TV star of the year” mentioned? Here are some of the best political moments — and there were plenty of them.

RIZ AHMED

When asked on the red carpet prior to the broadcast if he thought it would be a political night, Riz Ahmed – who later in the evening won Lead Actor in a Limited Series for “The Night Of” — replied, “All art is political. Art is a perspective on the world…There’s no such thing as art that isn’t political, art which doesn’t have a perspective or opinion of the world. And I think it’s right that art should engage with the world around us.”

He pointed to his blue ACLU ribbon, which Elizabeth Moss, Mandy Patinkin and other attendees wore as well. “We’re living in times when free speech and free expression are under threat, and so are civil liberties. Without free speech, you can have no art. You have no Emmys, no entertainment, so it’s right that we stand up for this.”

STEPHEN COLBERT

Did Stephen Colbert manage to maintain his balance, as he’d told Variety? Not so much. Here are some of his best burns.

  • “The industry is booming. There were over 450 original scripted shows. Of course, there’s no way anyone could watch that much TV — other than the president. He seems to have a lot of time for that sort of thing. Hello, sir, thanks for joining us. Looking forward to the tweets.”
  • “However you feel about the president, you can’t deny that every show is influenced by Donald Trump in some way. All the late night shows, obviously; ‘House of Cards,’ the new season of ‘American Horror Story’ and, of course, next year’s Latin Grammys, hosted by Sheriff Joe Arpaio.”
  • “We all know the Emmys mean a lot to Donald Trump, because he was nominated multiple times for ‘Celebrity Apprentice,’ but never won. Why didn’t you give him an Emmy? I tell you this, if he had won an Emmy, I bet he wouldn’t have run for president. So in a way, this is all your fault. I thought you people loved morally compromised antiheroes. You love Walter White — he’s just Walter Much Whiter.”
  • “The president has complained repeatedly that the Emmys are rigged. He even went after the host a few years back…

…Wow, ‘Marbles in his mouth.’ That’s harsh. That’s quite an accusation. Any response, Seth?” (The camera cut to Myers, with marbles falling from his mouth.)

  • “Of course, what really matters to Donald Trump is ratings. You’ve got to have the big numbers. And I certainly hope we achieved that tonight. Unfortunately, at this point, we have no way of knowing how big our audience is. I mean, is there anyone who can say how big the audience is? Sean, do you know?”

Sean Spicer entered the stage on a motorized rolling podium, a la Melissa McCarthy, who won an Emmy for her portrayal of the former White House press secretary on “SNL.” “This will be the largest audience to witness an Emmys, period,” Spicer responded. “Both in person and around the world.”

“Wow, that really soothes my fragile ego,” Colbert said. “I can understand why you would want one of these guys around.”

  • Later in the show, when pointing out Robert De Niro in the audience, Colbert said the actor “is nominated for his role in ‘Wizard of Lies,’ which I believe was the Sean Spicer story.”

JOHN LITHGOW

When accepting the Supporting Actor in a Drama Series award for his portrayal of Winston Churchill in “The Crown,” Lithgow said of the former prime minister, “In these crazy times, his life, even as an old man, reminds us what courage and leadership in government really look like.”

ALEC BALDWIN

  • “I suppose I should say, ‘At long last, Mr. President, here is your Emmy,’” Baldwin said as he accepted the award for Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series, for his impersonation of Trump on “Saturday Night Live.”
  • He ended his acceptance speech with a recollection of what someone told him about dying. “You don’t remember a bill that congress passed on, or a decision the supreme court made or an address made by the president,” he said. “You remember a song, a line from a movie, a play, a book, a painting, a poem. What we do is important. For all of you out there in motion pictures and television, don’t stop doing what you’re doing. The audience is counting on you.”
  • In the press room backstage, Baldwin said he’s a conduit for the world’s pain. “People are suffering a great deal. They are confused and in pain. They walk up to me and they slap me on the back and say, ‘Thank you!’ In some small way it manages that pain.”

JANE FONDA AND LILY TOMLIN

Fonda, Tomlin and Dolly Parton, the three stars of “Nine to Five,” reunited to present an Emmy, and two of them made pointed remarks. “Back in 1980, in that movie, we refused to be controlled by a sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot,” Fonda said.

“And we still refuse to be controlled by a sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot,” Tomlin added.

KUMAIL NANJIANI

Presenting the Emmy for Outstanding Reality-Competition Program, Nanjiani, of “Silicon Valley,” said the nominated shows “celebrate people who frantically race across international borders and those who can scale walls really, really quickly. In other words, the president’s worst nightmare.”

DONALD GLOVER

“I want to thank Trump for making black people No. 1 on the most oppressed list,” Glover said as he accepted his award for Best Actor in a Comedy Series for “Atlanta.” Earlier in the evening, Glover made history by becoming the first black person to win the Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series award. “He’s the reason I’m probably here.”

JULIA LOUIS-DREYFUS

Accepting her record-breaking sixth consecutive Emmy as Best Actress in a Comedy Series for “Veep,” Louis-Dreyfus said, “We did have a whole storyline about an impeachment, but we abandoned that because we were worried that someone else might do it first.”

DAVID MANDEL (‘VEEP’ SHOWRUNNER)

“I want to thank the other [comedy] shows that truly inspire us,” said the “Veep” showrunner as he accepted the Best Comedy award for the series. “‘Atlanta,’ ‘Black-ish,’ ‘Masters of None,’ the Trump White House, ‘Modern Family,’ ‘Kimmy Schmidt,’ and ‘Silicon Valley.’”

CHARLIE BROOKER (‘BLACK MIRROR: SAN JUNIPERO’ WRITER)

When accepting the award for Best Television Movie, Brooker said he’s heard 2017 described “as like being trapped in one long, unending ‘Black Mirror’ episode. But I’d like to think that if I had written it, it wouldn’t be quite so on the nose, with all those Nazis and hate.”

BRUCE MILLER (‘THE HANDMAID’S TALE’ SHOWRUNNER)

One of the most positive political statements was made at the very end of the three-hour show. When “The Handmaid’s Tale” won Best Drama, showrunner Miller told the audience, “Go home, get to work. We have a lot of things to fight for.”

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

60 comments

Debbi -W-
Debbi Wood27 days ago

Stephen Colbert has a wicked sense of humor. Plus, Trump, and his lying, bigoted band of billionaire racists are perfect fodder.

SEND
Anna Ballinger
Anna Ballinger28 days ago

Thank you for sharing. I’m a big fan of Stephen Colbert.

SEND
heather g
heather g29 days ago

Enjoyed watching the Emmys

SEND
One Heart i
One Heart inc29 days ago

Thanks!!!

SEND
Carole R
Carole Rabout a month ago

Thanks for the post.

SEND
Bonnie Lynn M
Bonnie Lynn Mabout a month ago

Thank you

SEND
Lisa M
Lisa Mabout a month ago

Noted.

SEND
Lisa M
Lisa Mabout a month ago

Noted.

SEND
Emma Z
Past Member about a month ago

Thanks for all this.

SEND
Winn A
Winn Aabout a month ago

Thanks

SEND