This year’s Presidential election has been a zoo, so what better way to watch the first debate between Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican contender Donald Trump then at a private viewing party in honor of Disney’s “Zootopia”? With its themes of discrimination, corruption, and political power-plays, this animated Oscar contender about the struggles of predators and prey living together peacefully in the animal kingdom proved to be the perfect host for this highly anticipated event. Campaign stickers with the words “Vote Zootopia” were scattered throughout the viewing rooms.
Gold Derby managing editor Chris Beachum, senior editor Marcus Dixon and I mixed with stars, Golden Globe voters, and Oscar pundits alike at the Sunset Tower Hotel in Los Angeles on Monday night. Here are the top 5 outbursts and reactions from the spirited Hollywood crowd from the event:
1. The room grew quiet as Trump and Clinton ascended the stage like two boxers entering the ring for a match-up rivaling the Rumble in the Jungle between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman. Could Clinton be all things to all people? Could Trump go the entire 90 minutes without burning the place down? Would debate moderator Lester Holt hold either candidate accountable to fact checking? These questions floated throughout the minds of the crowd, their silence speaking volumes of anticipation.
2. Clinton received several big applause moments from the decidedly liberal audience, but perhaps her best came when Trump criticized her preparation for the debate. “Yes, I did,” she readily admitted. “And you know what else I prepared for? I prepared to be President.” A close second came during an argument over nuclear warfare, in which she made it clear to voters, “A man who can be baited by a tweet should not have his hands anywhere near the nuclear codes.”
3. Every so often, the often erratic Trump was able to sound semi-reasonable. At other times, he was downright comical. His biggest laugh of the night was in response to the DNC hack allegedly perpetrated by Russian president Vladimir Putin. “Maybe it was Russia,” he conceded. “Maybe it was somebody sitting on his bed that weighs 400 pounds.” Love him or hate him, you’ve gotta give him his comedic timing.
4. Shortly thereafter came Trump’s worst moment, or as it’s more commonly known, the rest of the debate. When asked if his judgment was better than his opponent’s for military action, the former “Celebrity Apprentice” host went on a long, seemingly endless tirade during which, among other things, he railed against NATO, blamed Clinton and President Barack Obama for forming ISIS, and fervently denied his support of the Iraq war. He said that if only people would contact Fox News anchor Sean Hannity, they’d know he was against it from the start (despite the various soundbites proving the opposite). After resurrecting an old feud with Rosie O’Donnell and complaining about the Clinton campaign’s negative ads against him, he reassured the viewers that his temperament was appropriate for the Oval Office. Our Hollywood-insider audience disagreed.
5. Cheers and jeers weren’t limited to the candidates. During a back-and-forth about mending racial tensions in America, Trump advocated for law and order (prompting one woman at the bar to yell, “SVU!”) He cited former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani’s implementation of “Stop and Frisk” as an example of successful policing. Moderator Holt called the billionaire out on this, reminding him that the controversial policy was deemed unconstitutional for systematically targeting African Americans and Latinos. The applause from the crowd was deafening, almost drowning out Trump’s rebuttal.
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