Meryl Streep Labels Walt Disney a 'Gender Bigot' and 'Hideous anti-Semite'

Allegations of anti-Semitism were rife during Disney's lifetime and critics have noted anti-Jewish stereotypes in several of his animated films.

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Hollywood veteran and esteemed actress Meryl Streep took on an ancient target when she slammed late animator Walt Disney for being a "gender bigot" and a "hideous anti-Semite," during a National Board of Review gala in New York earlier this week, the Independent reported.

In her speech honoring fellow actress Emma Thompson, who is appearing in a film based around Walt Disney's courting of the rights to Mary Poppins, Streep said her peer is "practically a saint," before launching into a tirade against the founder of the famous studio.

Streep accused Disney of forming and supporting an anti-Semitic industry lobby, and of harboring misogynist sentiments. To prove the latter point, the actress quoted from a letter Disney wrote to an aspiring female animator in 1938: "Women do not do any of the creative work in connection with preparing the cartoons for the screen, as that task is performed entirely by young men," it read.

Streep also quoted Disney's colleague Walter Kimball, who apparently said that his boss "didn't trust women or cats," Variety reported.

The actress gave the late animator some slack, saying his shortcomings may be related to his genius. "There is a piece of received wisdom that says that the most creative people are often odd, or irritating, eccentric, damaged, difficult. That along with enormous creativity comes certain deficits in humanity or decency."

"We are familiar with this trope in our business: Mozart, Van Gogh, Tarantino, Eminem," she added.

Allegations as to Disney's anti-Semitism were rife both in his lifetime and after his death, and Jewish stereotypes were featured in several of his early productions, the Independent report said.

For example, Three Little Pigs featured the Big Bad Wolf sneaking up to the door dressed as a Jewish peddler. And The Opry House, during which Mickey Mouse dresses up and dances like a Hasidic Jew, the Independent article listed.

He was also criticized for inviting Nazi propagandist Leni Riefenstahl to Hollywood in 1938 to promote her film Olympia.

Actress Meryl Streep arrives for the National Board of Review Awards in New York January 7, 2014.Credit: Reuters