More than a year after testifying before Congress that she had been sexually assaulted by then Supreme Court Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh, Blasey Ford received a standing ovation before speaking of the backlash that she endured since coming forward.
“I was not prepared for the venom, the persistent attacks,” Blasey Ford told the audience at the Beverly Wilshire in Los Angeles. “I was not prepared to be physically threatened and forced out of my home.”
She continued, “Although I underestimated the pain, I also underestimated the love and the support that I have received. I am thankful that sharing my experience has prompted over 200,000 people from across our country and around the world to send messages of support, many handwritten, sharing their own stories of assault and abuse. That’s why it means so much to me, not just to be recognized by you tonight but because I know you will continue the work of protecting sexual assault survivors and preventing sexual assault.”
During her speech, Blasey Ford also paid tribute others who had come forward including Anita Hill, Colin Kaepernick and Former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, who testified last week during the House impeachment inquiry hearings.
“My voice was just one voice,” Blasey Ford said. “You are many. We are many.”
Also at Sunday night’s event, Judd Apatow delivered a blistering attack against President Donald Trump and his administration before presenting Blasey Ford with the award.
“What Trump didn’t realize is that he did make America great,” Apatow said. “He made it great by uniting us all against him. What we all need to do is to pay tribute to our real heroes so more people will follow their example. We need to honor the courageous people who stand up to power.”
Other honorees included Don Cheadle, songwriter Justin Tranter and longtime activist Judy Balaban. Before accepting the Bill of Rights award, presented by Regina King, Cheadle spoke with Variety about challenges facing the country today.
“There is a potpourri of issues that we have to tackle together at the same time,” Cheadle said. “The umbrella over all of them is climate change. It affects poverty, income inequality, it affects social justice, it affects what’s happening at the border, it affects communities that are having to find water and resources, not just in this country but all over the world. It is a huge issue that we have to find somehow the intestinal fortitude to deal with or we are all going to go down.”
On a lighter note, Cheadle was surprised to learn that Disney had submitted his name for Oscars consideration following his performance in “Avengers: Endgame.”
“That’s ridiculous, but cool,” Cheadle admitted. “I would just laugh the whole way. It would be pretty hilarious. That’s bananas but cool, great.”
Selena Gomez presented longtime collaborator Tranter with the Bill of Rights award.
“When I got the call about being honored on the way to the studio, I was with [Gomez],” Tranter told Variety. “So, I told her, ‘I just found out that I’m getting the honor of my dreams as an activist.’ She was like, ‘Well, I have to be there.’ It wasn’t even a question, I didn’t have to ask her. It was unbelievable. It’s a true friendship and a true collaboration.”
While presenting Tranter with the award, Gomez spoke of how their activism and ideals had impacted her.
“Justin has pushed me, not only as a songwriter and an artist but also as a human being,” she said. “For that, I will be extremely grateful for the rest of my life.”
She continued, “There is so much to love about Justin but what I truly love the most is their conviction and passion to be a voice for the communities that need it. Whether its demanding action on commonsense gun control or fighting against discrimination of queer people, Justin never gives up and he’ll never ever take no as answer.”
During the event, Chrissy Metz gave a live performance of “I’m Standing With You”, an original song penned by Diane Warren for the 2019 film “Breakthrough,” in which Metz also stars. Warren told Variety that she is hoping the song capitalizes on its Oscar buzz.
“I’ve been nominated 10 times, I’d like to make it 11 with this song,” Warren said. “I think there’s a shot. I love the message of the song in the times we are in. Everyone is so divided, and then you have a song that’s whatever you go through, I’m standing with you.”