On a gloomy Friday morning, some of Hollywood’s most beloved female philanthropists took turns honoring one another and roasting Bill O’Reilly over a light lunch. Variety’s Power of Women luncheon feted a handful of luminaries and their crucial causes—honorees included Jessica Chastain, Chelsea Clinton, Audra McDonald and Tina Knowles Lawson. Presenters like Lena Dunham and Salma Hayek upped the star power, alongside card-carrying male allies like Cory Booker and…well, mostly just Cory Booker.
Arguably the biggest star of the day was Chelsea Clinton, inspiring a standing ovation and a whole lot of gushing from the A-List crowd. Blake Lively, who gave a passionate speech about the Child Rescue Coalition, told The Daily Beast that, “When Chelsea Clinton walked in I just melted on that red carpet!” While grateful for the opportunity to share her cause and be among such powerful women, Lively added, “The fact that we have an event called empowered women is still a shame. I’m so grateful for it, but the road is too long.” The actress also chastised a reporter at the event who asked her about fashion, responding, “Are we really doing this? Would you ask a man that?”
Private Practice’s Kate Walsh reminded The Daily Beast of the importance of self-care in the Trump era: “I think there’s a little bit of contraction that happened after that election, a little freaking out and going ‘Ahh, what do I do?’ But that has made us stronger than ever, and it’s a great conduit for change.” Walsh admitted that her “heart was definitely broken” by Trump’s victory, adding, “I feel like action is important, and that’s happening, and women are galvanized and so many people have come together around this, but I also think it’s important to understand after that election, for me anyways, to take the time to refocus, regroup, take good care of yourself and your friends and the people around you, and then to be of service where you can.”
Coming on the heels of Bill O’Reilly’s career implosion, this group of powerful women couldn’t resist a few jabs at the now-fallen Fox host. Jessica Chastain, who was being honored for her work on behalf of Planned Parenthood, took her cues from Michelle Obama and declined to mention O’Reilly by name. “Most recently women said ‘No’ to a certain Fox News anchor,” she began. “After years of sexual assault accusations and settlements were unearthed, women’s rights groups called for the advertisers to pull their support from the show and companies listened. And so did Fox. As a result, the 8 o’clock news hour will be known as simply ‘The Factor.’ This is our collective power in action.”
Oprah/Everyone’s BFF Gayle King took a moment while accepting her award to share a brief O’Reilly anecdote. She told the audience that O’Reilly had recently been a guest on her show CBS This Morning, promoting a book about—wait for it— “manners.” After pausing for laughs, King continued, recalling that when her co-host asked O’Reilly about the topic of sexual harassment, “He said, ‘Well, I don’t want to discuss anything that brings negative attention to my network.’ Which seems very rich under the circumstance.”
But the harshest words came from Lena Dunham—probably because, as she noted at the beginning of her remarks, “I’m in the very privileged position to be able to say whatever the fuck I want most of the time.” Dunham joked, “We also should have known there was something wrong with Bill O’Reilly when a few years ago he confused a loofah and a falafel. Does anyone remember that? So like, this isn’t fresh info.” On a more serious note, Dunham praised former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson for speaking out against sexual harassment. She explained, “When you work in a corporate infrastructure the challenge of coming out about sexual harassment is so massive, and to see a woman who surmounted that, and bravely made space for other women to do the same, is just deeply inspiring.”
Speaking to The Daily Beast, Carlson addressed all of those other working women—the ones she hopes her story will inspire and embolden. “I wish they could call me! I’ve heard from thousands of women all across the country, they’ve shared their stories with me and I’ve responded to every single one of them. So I really believe that if I’ve helped even one person, it’s worth it. But we plan to help so many more. Because I was the voice for the voiceless, but now we’re speaking up and we’re standing up, and there’s a sea change here.”
Carlson also emphasized that educating men and holding them accountable is crucial, describing a true male ally as “somebody that understands the value and the benefit of treating a woman like an equal”—while acknowledging how crazy it is that we’re still struggling to clear such a low bar. “What’s crucial to me is the way in which parents are raising children, because that’s where it all starts,” she added. “This is a pledge for parents to really make sure that they’re treating their kids with equal respect, and that they’re learning to treat each other with human dignity.”