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Trump lashed out at the actress via Twitter on Monday after she criticized him in her passionate Golden Globes speech about empathy Sunday night. In response, Trump called her “one of the most overrated actresses in Hollywood.”
Clooney, a staunch Hillary Clinton supporter and former costar of Streep’s, addressed the controversy at a reception hosted by The Clooney Foundation for Justice on Monday. The event was in support of the Netflix documentary White Helmets about the work done by heroic Syrians to help those hit by bombings in the country.
“I’ve always said that about Meryl,” Clooney told PEOPLE sarcastically. “She’s maybe the most overrated actress of all-time. She and I worked together on Fantastic Mr. Fox as husband and wife and I will tell you even as a fox, a female fox, she’s overrated,” he said with a smile. “Aren’t you supposed to be running the country?” he asked Trump rhetorically.
Asked about bringing his star power to causes, Clooney told PEOPLE, “The only reason that people who are well known should be involved in these kinds of things is when no one knows about them.”
He explained, “I remember getting involved in Darfur in 2005-ish and part of the reason was that it wasn’t being talked about. I can’t change policy, but I can make things louder. I can help them make it louder — they’re the filmmakers, the brave ones and the White Helmets are the heroes, so if I can help them out at all and people can know about it, in any way possible, then that’s a good use of celebrity, I think.”
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Addressing the reception following a screening of the harrowing film in a Central London hotel, he thanked the filmmakers, director Orlando von Einsiedel and producer Joanna Natasegara.
“The reality is that bad things happen when the lights have been turned off. That’s what the bad guys want,” Clooney said. “You have to have the lights on, and show what this really is, and show that these are human beings and not names and statistics. They are living and surviving and caring for one another. What you are doing is spectacular. Thank you for this.”
Despite the desperate situation in Syria, Clooney concluded his speech on a hopeful note. “The reality is that the vast majority of human beings are kind and want what’s best for their neighbors, for their children, for their families and also what’s best for their neighbors and people they don’t even know,” he said.
“That is the norm, that’s what’s ordinary and we forget that sometimes,” added the actor. “What is extraordinary is these people who put on White Helmets and run towards violence while everyone else is running away from it. Where there is no other structure or society, they are there to protect. And they risk their lives to do it. First and foremost they are heroes.”