15 Times Stars Got Political in 2018: From Taylor Swift Taking a Stand to Kanye West's MAGA Phase
By Zach Seemayer
Kevin Winter for dcp/ Saul Loeb/AFP / Saul Loeb via Getty Images
Celebrities sharing their views on politics isn't something new to 2018, but it seems that no year in recent memory has inspired so many famous figures to take to the streets, to Twitter, and to awards show stages to share their views and take a public political stance.
ET is looking back at some of the biggest, most shocking, and most influential instances of celebrities taking a step into the political arena over the past 12 months.
1. Taylor Swift Finally Takes a Stand on Politics
After spending most of her career staying largely silent when it came to her political leanings, the Reputation singer took a very vocal stand in October when she came out in favor of Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen, the Democratic candidate who was facing off against republican Marsha Blackburn to become Tennessee's next U.S. senator.
"In the past I’ve been reluctant to publicly voice my political opinions, but due to several events in my life and in the world in the past two years, I feel very differently about that now," she wrote on Instagram, in part. "I believe in the fight for LGBTQ rights, and that any form of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender is WRONG. I believe that the systemic racism we still see in this country towards people of color is terrifying, sickening and prevalent."
Swift went on to say that she couldn't vote for Blackburn -- who ultimately won the Senate seat against Bredesen -- due to her positions on issues such as equal pay, domestic violence and gay rights, among many other political stances with which Swift vehemently disagreed. Swift also encouraged all of her fans to vote in the midterms. Following Swift's post, voter registration spiked massively, with more than 65,000 new registrations nationwide in the first 24 hours alone.
2. Stars Get Out the Vote Ahead of the Midterm Elections
Swift was far from the only star working hard to encourage young people to vote ahead of the midterm elections. Nearly every actor, musician and celebrity who'd ever voiced a political opinion hopped on board the bandwagon, and did what they could to get out the vote.
And their efforts, for the most part, seemingly paid off. Voter turnout reached 49.3 percent! While that doesn't necessarily sound high, it's enormous for a midterm election. In fact, it's the highest turnout since 1914, when 50.4 percent of voters headed out to the polls.
3. Cynthia Nixon Runs for Governor of New York (and It Doesn't Go Great)
In March, the Sex and the City alum announced that she would be running for governor of New York, where she planned on facing off against incumbent Governor Andrew Cuomo. Nixon produced some slick campaign promos and worked hard to draw fans, voters and her fellow celebs to her message.
However, when the democratic primaries arrived, Cuomo had a greater amount of support from the Democratic party, as well as greater financial resources than Nixon, and pre-primary polls suggested the incumbent governor had more support from New York voters. The Associated Presscalled the race for Cuomo based on projected totals at 9:30 p.m. ET. With nearly 50 percent of total votes counted, the 60-year-old career politician held an insurmountable 66.3 percent lead over Nixon's 33.7 percent.
4. Kim Kardashian West Meets With President Donald Trump
When the Keeping Up With the Kardashians star heard the the heartbreaking story of Alice Johnson -- a 63-year-old who was serving a life sentence for a first time non-violent drug offense -- she decided to do whatever she could to help, and that meant meeting with the only man who could offer Johnson clemency.
Ultimately, the meeting was successful, and clemency was granted for Johnson, whom Kim later met with in an emotional visit at the woman's home after she served 21 years behind bars.
5. Kanye West Throws His Support Behind Trump, Goes Full MAGA
Kim wasn't the only person in her family to hold court with the president this year. Kanye West -- who raised eyebrows and ire time and again throughout 2018 for coming out in defiant support of Trump -- had a very animated meeting in the oval office, in front of hundreds of reporters, where he delivered a nearly 10-minute soliloquy about his political beliefs. The meeting famously ended with West and Trump embracing in a hug.
Among the many controversial statements West made in 2018 -- including his supposedly misconstrued remarks about slavery being a choice and his advocacy for repealing the 13th Amendment, among so, so many others -- it was his donning of the infamous red MAGA hat that seemed to rile people up on a visceral level.
Whether it was in response to his remarks about the California wildfires, or his comments questioning the honesty of sexual assault victims who don't immediately report the attack to police, celebrities around the world jumped on his frequent and grammatically questionable tweets multiple times over the past 12 months. The large public platform also allowed vocal celebs to try to speak truth to power while protesting some of the year's most controversial political policies, including family separation at the border and Trump's support for Brett Kavanaugh.
7. Alyssa Milano Throws Daggers at Brett Kavanaugh During Senate Hearing
The actress and social activist made headlines during the now-Supreme Court Justice's senate hearings in September, when she was photographed throwing daggers with her stares at the judge's back while he gave his temperamental testimony regarding accusations of sexual assault leveled against him by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford.
ET caught up with Milano two weeks later and the former Charmed actress revealed what was going through her mind during the high-profile hearing. "I really ran the gamut of emotions, from feeling hopeful, from [feeling] proud of Dr. [Christine Blasey] Ford and survivors everywhere, to absolute rage and anger," she shared. "I was trying to use the Force."
8. Omarosa Makes Horrifying White House Revelations (on 'Celebrity Big Brother')
From vague declarations that America "is not going to be OK," to concerning anecdotes claiming Vice President Mike Pence thought he had spoken directly with God, Omarosa's remarks were soon getting coverage from major press outlets like CNN and MSNBC, which was a coverage angle no one could have predicted from a show about Chuck Liddell, Metta World Peace, Shannon Elizabeth and Mark McGrath trying to live in a house together for a month.
9. Tom Arnold Allegedly Gets in a Fight With Mark Burnett Over 'Trump Tapes'
The True Lies star confused and surprised the world when he took to Twitter one random night in September and accused TV super-producer Mark Burnett of assaulting him at an industry party. As the bizarre drama unfolded, it turned out that the incident stemmed from Arnold's Viceland series, The Hunt for the Trump Tapes, in which the actor attempted to find incriminating recordings from Trump's time as star of The Apprentice, a show Burnett produced.
"I didn't even see her there. That bruise is five days old," Arnold alleged. "First of all, think about this, I went to the party, allegedly uninvited. According to them, I beat up the CEO of MGM and his wife and then I didn’t get arrested or anything and I got to stay at the party all night?" Details regarding the incident between Arnold and Burnett remain unclear and uncorroborated.
10. Robert De Niro Delivers Profane Anti-Trump Speech at the Tonys
"First, I wanna say, 'F**k Trump,'" De Niro declared. "It's no longer 'Down with Trump,' it's, 'F**k Trump!'" His remarks were met with cheering and even a partial standing ovation from the awards show audience, and even earned the actor a seething tweet from Trump, who called him a "very Low IQ individual," and claimed her "received to [sic] many shots to the head by real boxers in movies."
11. Shania Twain Says She Would Have Voted for Trump, Immediately Regrets It
The Canadian country singer unwittingly stirred up a whole lot of controversy in April when she sat down for an interview with The Guardian and said she likely would have voted for Trump if she were an American citizen, based on the politician seeming "honest." Unsurprisingly, the remarks didn't go down super well with many of her fans.
I would like to apologise to anybody I have offended in a recent interview with the Guardian relating to the American President. The question caught me off guard. As a Canadian, I regret answering this unexpected question without giving my response more context (1/4)
Almost immediately after the interview ran, Twain took to Twitter where she penned a four-part message apologizing for her comments while trying to explain and contextualize her intent. "I am passionately against discrimination of any kind and hope it’s clear from the choices I have made, and the people I stand with, that I do not hold any common moral beliefs with the current President," Twain wrote, adding that the question "caught me off guard" and stressing, "I make music to bring people together. My path will always be one of inclusivity, as my history shows."
12. Colin Kaepernick Signs With Nike, People Start Burning Their Shoes
Nearly two years after starting a movement of peaceful protest and political resistance by taking a knee during the National Anthem during an NFL game, Kaepernick was chosen to be the face of Nike's new ad campaign, and some this did not go over well with some conservatives.
While many on the political left celebrated Nike's decision -- and many level-headed conservatives aired their disappointment with words -- there was a subset of reactionary people who felt the only way to protest was to destroy their own (already purchased) Nike property.
This included cutting the Nike swoosh off their socks and lighting their shoes on fire, in some cases while they were still wearing them. Within a month after the first ad, Nike's overall value as a company reportedly increased by $6 billion, so it seems like all those charred sneakers didn't accomplish much.
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Ariana Grande, Kim Kardashian Among Stars Protesting at March for Our Lives
On March 24, over a million people nationwide took to the streets for the March for Our Lives protest against gun violence, just over a month after the horrifying mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The main demonstration was held in Washington, D.C., with over 800 additional marches conducted in cities in every state.
Among the millions of protesters were scores of celebrities who attempted to use their fame and public platform to further the cause. Kim Kardashian West and Kanye West, George and Amal Clooney, Paul McCartney, Jimmy Fallon, Miley and Noah Cyrus, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Steven Spielberg, Ariana Grande, Julianne Moore Amy Schumer, Will Smith, Glenn Close and Demi Lovato were just a few of the A-list celebs who took to the streets to march with signs and/or perform at protests across the country.
14. Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson Starts to Seriously Consider a Possible Run for President
While the Skyscraper star first sparked rumors last year that he might consider running for president in the future, he confirmed in April that he had taken the next step, and was actively taking meetings to "understand more" about the job. "[The meetings are] just really to understand more and to learn more," he told ET's Nancy O'Dell. "The idea of running for president has been very flattering that a good amount of people have been wanting me to run and, honestly, it's so flattering, but I feel like the most respectful thing I could do is just learn as much as I could possibly do."
"Like, to become president, that is a skill set that I feel like you have to know," he continued. "You have to put in the time -- like years and years of service, so anyway, that's where I'm at. I just want to learn as much as I possibly can." However, with over 10 movies currently in production or pre-production as of December, it seems like he might have his hands full for the foreseeable future.
15. Late Night Hosts Go After Trump Hard
One of the biggest changes the country has seen over the last year has been a move by late-night talk show hosts -- who, in decades past, have traditionally shied away from taking political stances in fear of alienating possible viewers -- to the political left, by taking frequent aim at Trump's policies and the president himself.
While Stephen Colbert, Seth Meyers and Jimmy Kimmel have often been the loudest and most vocal opponents of the administration, all the major hosts have gotten serious and even tearful over painful or shocking political events over the past year. Jimmy Fallon -- who famously took a lot of heat for supposedly "humanizing" Trump during the campaign with his infamous hair tussle moment -- has seemed intent on redeeming himself, so to speak, by taking a much more political stance than he ever has before.
The pinnacle of this trend seemed to occur on June 26 when Colbert, Fallon and Conan O'Brien orchestrated a cross-network team-up that aired simultaneously on The Late Show and The Tonight Show. The crossover event came in response to Trump insulting all the late-night hosts during a campaign rally, and the hosts used his words to lampoon him even harder.
Here's more with the late-night crew versus Trump: