On Sunday night, Robert De Niro appeared at the American Icon Awards to honor his longtime friend Al Pacino. He joked about about how he and Pacino starred in “The Godfather, Part II” and often competed for roles before memorably sharing the screen in the 1995 film “Heat.” But his amiable speech took a pointed diversion.
“You didn’t think you were completely going to get away without a ‘f--- Trump’ moment, did you?” De Niro said, referring to the off-script swipe he directed at the president during last year’s Tony Awards.
The 75-year-old actor continued his speech, which was captured by TMZ and posted to the gossip website’s YouTube page. “The producers of the American Icon Awards wanted a tribute to the individuals who lead America. Not so fast,” he said.
Pacino and his fellow honorees, including Quincy Jones and Evander Holyfield, “don’t lead America — maybe they should — but they do fill their own essential roles,” De Niro said. “People of great individual accomplishments who give us examples to look up to.”
“They’ve earned our respect and admiration, and they deserve this tribute,” he continued. “On the other hand, the individual who currently purports to lead America is not worthy of any tribute. Unless you think of his impeachment and imprisonment as a sort of tribute. And that’s how you could make America great again.”
De Niro has been an outspoken and persistent critic of the president. Last year, he pledged that “as long as our country’s leadership is so appalling and so corrupt, I’ll be speaking out at every venue.” He solidified that vow with his two-word attack at the 2018 Tonys, which drew both praise and criticism.
Variety reported that De Niro’s remarks at the American Icon Awards were “met with a mix of cheers, laughter and boos.”
But the reception from Fox News was fairly homogeneous as the network’s Monday night lineup gleefully blasted the actor.
First up was Tucker Carlson, who invited far-right columnist Mark Steyn to talk about the actor’s speech. “Robert De Niro lives better than 99.99 percent of people in the entirety of human history have ever lived,” Steyn said as Carlson listened intently. “And he cannot accept that a close election in a 50-50 country didn’t go his way.”
“In the last two years, you’ve watched this parade of . . . the most privileged people in our society shouting down at Trump’s voters,” Carlson noted. “Has there ever been a revolution aimed in this direction — down?”
“It’s a worldwide phenomenon in some ways,” Steyn answered. “The elites rising up against the masses.”
Steyn later said De Niro had become “even more insane than Travis Bickle,” the depressed veteran turned vigilante the actor portrayed in the 1976 thriller, “Taxi Driver.” Incidentally, De Niro compared the antihero to Trump ahead of the 2016 presidential election.
Carlson’s colleagues Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham also slammed De Niro.
Hannity dismissed the Academy Award-winning De Niro as “just a has-been actor that has too much time on his hands.” Ingraham suggested the actor could replace the scowl-faced Internet legend who died last week. “Now we have a new Grumpy Cat: De Niro,” she said.
But the actor, who just wrapped a recurring role as special counsel Robert S. Mueller III on “Saturday Night Live,” is already tied to other gigs. Later this year, De Niro will play union leader and rumored mobster Frank Sheeran in “The Irishman” on Netflix. (Pacino also stars in the film, directed by their frequent collaborator Martin Scorsese.) De Niro is also a producer on “When They See Us,” Ava DuVernay’s upcoming Netflix miniseries about the teenagers known as the Central Park Five — a group that Trump has publicly condemned over the years.
Correction: A previous version of this article stated that Robert De Niro played the younger version of Al Pacino’s “Godfather” character. He played the younger version of Marlon Brando’s character. The story has been updated.