One of the biggest questions headed into Sunday night’s Emmys was whether or not the TV industry would use its platform to lambast US president Donald Trump. Just minutes into the show, it was clear that it would. A lot.
Comedian Stephen Colbert, who hosted the show on CBS, pulled no punches in his opening musical number and monologue. “Even treason is better on TV,” he joked in one line of the song, referring to the FX show The Americans about Russian spies posing as Americans in the United States in the 1980s.
At one point in his monologue, CBS cut to a clip from one of last year’s presidential debates between Trump and Hillary Clinton, in which Clinton slammed Trump for claiming everything is rigged against him, even the Emmy awards. (Trump was nominated multiple times for producing his reality show The Apprentice, but never won.) “Should’ve gotten it,” Trump said in the clip, eliciting an explosion of laughter in the Emmys auditorium. Colbert added that, unlike the presidential election, Emmy winners are chosen by the popular vote.
Colbert acknowledged the prevailing anti-Trump sentiment in Hollywood: “Where do I find the courage to tell that joke in this room?” he joked.
The most shocking political moment of the night came at the end of Colbert’s monologue, when Trump’s former press secretary Sean Spicer came on stage holding a podium and made fun of his lies about the crowd size at Trump’s January inauguration. Many people on social media voiced their disapproval of the gag, arguing that it was an unfunny, blatant attempt at rehabilitating Spicer’s image.
But it wasn’t just the jokes that were focused on Trump. The awards themselves may also ruffle the US president’s feathers. Alec Baldwin won the award for best supporting actor in a comedy series for his caricature of Trump on Saturday Night Live. Comedian Jon Oliver, a frequent and harsh critic of the Trump administration, won multiple awards, including one for best variety talk series for his weekly HBO show, Last Week Tonight.
A few winners mentioned Trump specifically by name in their speeches, too. “I want to thank Trump for making black people number one on the most oppressed list,” said Donald Glover, winner for best actor in a comedy series for his FX series Atlanta. “He’s probably the reason I got this.”
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who won her sixth straight Emmy for her role as US vice president Selina Meyer on HBO’s Veep, said in her victory speech that the show had cooked up an impeachment plot line but had to ditch it last minute. “We were worried someone else might get to it first,” she joked. Meanwhile Black Mirror creator Charlie Brooker joked that this year might seem like an episode of the dystopian futuristic show, but “I’d like to think if I had written it it wouldn’t be quite so on the nose.”
It remains to be seen whether or not the president will respond to the attacks, on Twitter or elsewhere.