Linda Ronstadt's delicious takedown of Mike Pompeo

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Linda Ronstadt tells Anderson Cooper about her dinner at the State Department and what she said to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Posted: Dec 10, 2019 11:10 PM
Updated: Dec 10, 2019 11:10 PM

Saturday night, in one of the year's more deliciously awkward celebrity moments, singer Linda Ronstadt went head to head with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Pompeo's own turf. At a State Department event celebrating the year's Kennedy Center honorees, of which Ronstadt is one, she did away with niceties and politesse and instead told Pompeo, the evening's host and the country's most senior diplomat, exactly what she thought of him, which is not very much.

Pompeo never saw it coming — although he set up the jab quite well. During his pre-dinner address, Pompeo referenced Ronstadt's 1975 hit "When Will I Be Loved." "Ms. Ronstadt," he said, "thank you and congratulations. And I will say my job, as I travel the world, I just want to know when I will be loved?"

Later, when Ronstadt had the opportunity to take the microphone, she delivered her response. In front of more than 200 guests, Ronstadt, who has been an outspoken critic of the Trump administration, stood up and looked straight at Pompeo's table and said, "I'd like to say to Mr. Pompeo, who wonders when he'll be loved, it's when he stops enabling Donald Trump."

It was a risky move. The politicizing of Hollywood awards events is nothing new, of course, especially in recent years. But few celebrities have taken the opportunity to issue their criticisms so directly, and so boldly. And those who have spoken out have largely done so to far safer crowds of mostly liberal celebrities: Meryl Streep's anti-Trump Golden Globes speech in 2017, for example, or Robert DeNiro's Trump takedown at the 2018 Tony Awards.

This, however, was a government event, held at the US State Department. The audience was politically split, the award itself politically-bestowed, even as it is non-partisan in tone and tradition. And unlike Ronstadt, few Trump administration critics have had the chance to issue criticism in person.

Ronstadt's remarks were unexpected not because her views of Trump weren't known, but because they were not polite. They did not follow traditional rules of decorum expected — from women, especially — at such events. It was not ladylike or demure. It was not "so grateful to be here tonight accepting this award," as so many so often are.

Instead, it was honest. It was unapologetic. And it was about time.

At 73, Ronstadt, who is suffering from a condition similar to Parkinson's disease and retired in 2011, can no longer sing. But she has not lost her voice. That Pompeo told the crowd he was "a big fan of Linda Ronstadt ... an icon of folk and country music" did not matter to her. What did? Speaking her truth.

Her boldness may come with age, which for many can carry with it a "nothing to lose" mentality. Or it may come with the knowledge of her own power, which at this point in her life is no longer derived from pleasing others. She was not there for his, or anyone's, praise. Her career no longer depends on that.

The fear of alienating audiences, or of being "unlikable" in any way, is perhaps why more female celebrities aren't similarly bold. Although a few of Ronstadt's younger, female contemporaries have spoken out against Trump — including Adele and Rihanna, who both refused to let Trump use their songs during campaigning and endorsed Hillary Clinton — famous women are, for the most part, still expected to be polite, pretty, grateful for what they are given, and always occasion-appropriate. That's one reason it took pop star Taylor Swift so long to voice her political opinion.

But while Ronstadt has always been known in the industry as being "difficult" simply because she did what she wanted and not what others expected, she has now earned the right to speak her mind wherever and whenever she wants — without fear of industry blowback and without concern for being a "likeable" lady.

Certainly, she benefited from the fact that the public is likely to be more open to hearing such remarks from a person who speaks from time, experience and perspective — one advantage older female celebrities may have over their younger counterparts. But one lesson anyone of any age, gender or level of fame can take from Ronstadt's bold statement is that the more women use their voices, and speak their minds, the more likely doing so will become the expectation, and not the exception.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 319948

Reported Deaths: 7371
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto22285267
Hinds20719421
Harrison18431317
Rankin13901282
Jackson13718248
Madison10263224
Lee10059176
Jones8467167
Forrest7832153
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Stone188433
Clay187954
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Smith164134
Walthall135347
Greene131834
Lawrence131124
Montgomery128643
Noxubee128034
Perry127238
Amite126242
Carroll122330
Webster115032
Jefferson Davis108234
Tunica108127
Claiborne103130
Benton102325
Humphreys97533
Kemper96629
Franklin85023
Quitman82216
Choctaw79118
Wilkinson69632
Jefferson66228
Sharkey50917
Issaquena1696
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 548657

Reported Deaths: 11306
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson810031566
Mobile42105831
Madison35690525
Tuscaloosa26173458
Shelby25607254
Montgomery25081614
Baldwin21868314
Lee16278176
Calhoun14719327
Morgan14629285
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Houston10781287
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Cullman9952201
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Talladega8460184
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Blount6945139
Jackson6932113
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Dale4928116
Russell454841
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Franklin431382
Covington4275122
Tallapoosa4138155
Escambia401680
Chambers3728124
Dallas3607158
Clarke353061
Marion3240107
Pike314378
Lawrence3133100
Winston283472
Bibb268564
Geneva257981
Marengo250565
Pickens236962
Barbour234559
Hale227278
Butler224271
Fayette218862
Henry194543
Randolph187544
Cherokee187345
Monroe180041
Washington170539
Macon163051
Clay160059
Crenshaw155957
Cleburne153444
Lamar146837
Lowndes142254
Wilcox126930
Bullock124342
Conecuh113630
Coosa111729
Perry108626
Sumter105732
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