Sure, the Grammys are all about music, but one of the most contentious moments this year actually centered around politics. Nikki Haley was not pleased with a Grammys skit that featured Hillary Clinton and other celebrities reading from journalist Michael Wolff's controversial White House tell-all, Fire and Fury. "Don’t ruin great music with trash," the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations tweeted about the segment Saturday night.
To set the scene a bit, the video in question showed comedian James Corden jokingly auditioning celebs to read Fire and Fury, including President Trump's 2016 election rival. While Clinton fans were thrilled to see her make a cameo at the award ceremony, Trump's entourage was turned off — and wasted no time in announcing so publicly. "I have always loved the Grammys but to have artists read the Fire and Fury book killed it," Haley tweeted, adding, "Some of us love music without the politics thrown in it."
The negative reaction seemed natural coming from a Republican politician who's closely aligned herself with Trump. After all, the book portrays the president as a chaotic and egotistical leader. Adding to the list of reasons Haley probably doesn't have a copy on her nightstand is the fact that the book doesn't portray her in the best light, either.
Fire and Fury's author told Bill Maher last week he's "absolutely sure" Trump had an affair while occupying the White House, leading to the discovery of a passage that insinuates Haley was Trump's mistress. Wolff wrote on page 498:
"Many on the president’s staff took particular notice of one of the few remaining Trump opportunists: Nikki Haley, the UN ambassador. Haley—'as ambitious as Lucifer,' in the characterization of one member of the senior staff—had concluded that Trump’s tenure would last, at best, a single term, and that she, with requisite submission, could be his heir apparent. Haley had courted and befriended Ivanka, and Ivanka had brought her into the family circle, where she had become a particular focus of Trump’s attention, and he of hers."
Haley addressed the accusation head on last week, telling Politico's "Women Rule" podcast, "It is absolutely not true." She went on to say the implication was part of a bigger issue. "At every point in my life, I've noticed that if you speak your mind and you're strong about it and you say what you believe, there is a small percentage of people that resent that," she said. "And the way they deal with it is to try and throw arrows — lies or not — to diminish you."
All things considered, it's not too surprising Haley didn't appreciate the Grammys highlighting a book that suggests she accelerated her career by sleeping with her boss and compared her to Lucifer.
Still, people called out Haley on Twitter for asserting that politics and music should be kept separate. Art is inherently political, many argued, pointing to the use of music as a form of protest during Nazi Germany and entire genres such as hip hop centered around addressing political issues. Look no further than N.W.A.'s 1988 hit "Fuck tha Police" that brought police brutality and racial profiling into the spotlight.
"The notion that art and politics are separate is historically not true," New York Times culture writer Sopan Deb tweeted Saturday. "Some of the best known pieces of music in history are political."
Celebrities often use award shows to boost their platform and address political issues — a trend that has only accelerated under the Trump administration. The Fire and Fury skit wasn't even the main political statement at the 2018 Grammys, as stars wore white roses in support of the Time's Up movement seeking to combat sexual harassment and gender inequality in Hollywood. Nevertheless, Clinton's cameo — and Haley's adverse reaction — generated plenty of buzz.