A rightwing guerrilla artist in Los Angeles has claimed responsibility for posters that depict Meryl Streep as an enabler of Harvey Weinstein, calling them revenge for the actor's criticism of Donald Trump.
Sabo, a former US marine who considers leftism a "disorder", told the Guardian on Wednesday he created the posters that show Streep with a red stripe across her face and the text "She knew", a reference to accusations that she had knowledge of Weinstein's alleged sexual abuse of women.
Sabo, 49, said he and two collaborators conceived the campaign as retaliation for Streep using her latest Oscar-tipped film, The Post, to bash Trump. "She's swiping at us so we're swiping back."
About a dozen posters sprouted across LA on Tuesday, including near Streep's house, near the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists' headquarters and near the studio lot of 20th Century Fox, which made The Post.
Sabo has been called an "alt-right" version of Banksy. He says Republicans are the new punks, and makes a living selling inflammatory artwork at conservative events and through his website, plus contract work for the likes of Milo Yiannopoulos.
Sabo said he did not know if Streep had in fact enabled Weinstein’s alleged decades of abuse. “I wasn’t sitting in a room with her. I can’t say 100 per cent. But I’d say anyone in the [film] industry had a pretty good idea. I think she knew. Maybe she was providing Weinstein with the fresh meat.”
The poster campaign caps a torrid week for Streep who was already on the defensive after fellow actor Rose McGowan, who says she was raped by Weinstein, accused the grand dame of Hollywood of silence and hypocrisy.
McGowan made the accusation in a now deleted tweet which was prompted by reports that women will wear black at next month’s Golden Globes awards show in solidarity with victims of sexual misconduct.
“Actresses, like Meryl Streep, who happily worked for The Pig Monster, are wearing black @goldenglobes in a silent protest. YOUR SILENCE is THE problem. You’ll accept a fake award breathlessly & affect no real change. I despise your hypocrisy.”
Streep, who worked on several films produced by Weinstein and once jokingly referred to him as "God", has denied any knowledge of his alleged rapes, assaults and harassment, allegations which the New York Times and New Yorker made public in October.
In a statement, the Oscar winner expressed hurt at being assailed by McGowan. “But I want to let her know I did not know about Weinstein’s crimes, not in the 1990s when he attacked her, or through subsequent decades when he proceeded to attack others. I wasn’t deliberately silent. I didn’t know. I don’t tacitly approve of rape. I didn’t know. I don’t like young women being assaulted. I didn’t know this was happening.”
Several commentators have defended The Iron Lady star, calling it perverse that women should be faulted for men's alleged predations. "Women aren't responsible for men's bad behavior. We're not the sex police," Heidi Stevens wrote in the Chicago Tribune.
It is unclear if the attacks on Streep will dent her chances of an Oscar nomination for The Post, in which she plays Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham during the paper's decision to publish the Pentagon Papers in 1971, a free press milestone.
Steven Spielberg, who directed, and Tom Hanks, who plays the Post's editor, Ben Bradlee, have joined Streep in billing the film as a rebuttal of Trump administration broadsides against media villainy and "fake news".
It was initially unclear who was behind the Streep posters, which went up overnight and were not signed.
Sabo said in an interview on Wednesday that he printed and erected the posters with an assistant.
The artist, who has previously targeted Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and others on the left, said a fellow conservative collaborator, whom he declined to name, suggested a campaign against The Post because it was being "used as a platform" to attack Trump. "We wanted to take a swipe back."
However they ended up targeting just Streep, who used a Golden Globes speech almost a year ago to excoriate the president as a xenophobic bully. Sabo, who uses a pseudonym derived from a tank munition called sabot, is selling prints of the poster for $25 on his website.
Another recent stunt was a billboard mocking Al Franken, the Democratic senator who resigned after groping allegations.
The artist said he had no reason to target Trump over his boast, caught on an Access Hollywood tape, about assaulting women. “I don’t know a man who I’ve had a beer who doesn’t talk shit like that. We don’t have proof of Trump doing it. Who am I to judge him on that?”
Critics consider Sabo’s work crude, bigoted, racist and misogynistic. He disputed that criticism in an interview at his apartment-cum-studio last June: “The blacks, the Jews, the underdogs – no one has a bigger heart for them than me.” He works beneath a sign that says “Fuck Tibet”. Another says “Fuck peace”.
– Guardian service