“It’s Shakespearean, the whole thing,” De Niro said. “You’ve got a lunatic saying things that people are trying to dance around.
“It’s appalling. He wants to be reelected. He doesn’t even care how many people die.”
“Newsnight” host Emily Maitlis pushed back, suggesting the president’s followers would disagree with De Niro and vote for Trump again anyway. “He doesn’t care for those people, and the people who he pretends to care about are the people he has the most disdain for,” the actor responded. “They might like to tell themselves or to delude themselves, but he doesn’t care about them.”
The Oscar winner’s comments come as the United States, the country with the deadliest outbreak of the novel coronavirus, grapples with more than 83,000 deaths so far. Trump has faced backlash for saying he wants to reopen states even though it may lead to more deaths, while blaming the Obama administration for passing down a broken system and citing the Russia investigation and the impeachment trial as distractions.
But De Niro has been an outspoken critic of Trump for years, dating back to before the 2016 election. When the actor took part in a #VoteYourFuture campaign video urging people to vote, his clip was deemed too partisan to include in the final cut. In his portion, released separately, he didn’t hold back, calling Trump “blatantly stupid,” “a punk” and “a con.”
“I’d like to punch him in the face,” he added.
De Niro made headlines again in 2018 when he took the stage at the Tony Awards to introduce a performance by Bruce Springsteen, but not before dropping some choice words about the president.
“First, I want to say: F— Trump,” De Niro said. “It’s no longer ‘down with Trump,’ it’s ‘f— Trump.” He received a standing ovation from the crowd at New York’s Radio City Music Hall.
Trump customarily took to Twitter afterward to reciprocate a war of words with the actor, addressing him in a tweet: “Robert De Niro, a very Low IQ individual, has received too many shots to the head by real boxers in movies. I watched him last night and truly believe he may be ‘punch-drunk.’ I guess he doesn’t realize the economy is the best it’s ever been with employment being at an all time high, and many companies pouring back into our country. Wake up Punchy!”
In an appearance on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” in September 2019, “The Irishman” actor continued to slam Trump, despite his initial vow to “give him a chance” when he won the presidency. “That’s what I said right after he was elected,” De Niro told Colbert. “Give him a chance. I give everybody the benefit of the doubt. This guy has proven himself to be a total loser.” He went on to compare the president to some of the seedier characters in his movies: “Even gangsters have morals, and they have ethics. They have a code, and you know when you give somebody your word, it’s your word, because it’s all you have is your word. This guy, he doesn’t even know what that means.”
Just a few months later, De Niro told the Daily Beast he was worried Trump would try to start a war to secure an unprecedented third term — an idea that was presented to him by acclaimed director and longtime collaborator Martin Scorsese.
“The only other president who served a third term was Roosevelt because he was in a war, and this fool would go and start something. This was what Marty Scorsese was saying, and I said, ‘Marty, I never thought of that. I never thought he’d go for a third term if there was a war or something,’” De Niro said.
He reiterated a familiar point: “The day after [Trump] was elected, I went on a TV show and said I’d give him the benefit of the doubt and say that I hope he won’t be as bad as I think he will be, but he’s turned out to be a lot worse.”