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"The whole world is laughing at the United States, the so-called cradle of democracy. It's a very sad day in the history of America," Lee said during a pre-recorded speech that was filmed on Jan. 6, the day that Trump supporters stormed the Capitol. "We're at the crossroads now…and everybody please be safe. This is not a game… This president Agent Orange will go down in history with the likes of Hitler."
Lee also condemned the politicians who supported Trump's baseless claims of voter fraud, and remained by his side even after the insurrection in Washington, saying they were "on the wrong side of history."
Lee was being honored with a special award for his work on New York, New York, a short film created during the pandemic that served as a "love letter to its people." Filmed on Super 8, the three-minute-and-a-half minute video features various shots of the isolated city while on lockdown, and concludes with a dedication to the essential medical workers in hospitals throughout the five boroughs.
Lee finished his speech by thanking all the people who have worked in front of and behind the camera since his time in NYU film school. "You know what, we are living in a very serious time in America. All of us as true Americans have to really think about what’s important," he said, per USA TODAY. "There’s no way possible to go before the iPhone and thank you without telling you what’s in my heart and soul as a descendent of slaves who helped build this country."