From Twitter to cable news, President Donald Trump is not afraid to speak his mind. But neither is Robert De Niro. Ever since the presidential campaign was in full swing, the acclaimed actor has made his disdain for Trump very clear. That continued on Sunday, when De Niro gave a commencement address at Brown University, during which he called President Trump “an idiot” and described modern America as “a tragic, dumbass comedy.”
This was only the latest entry in De Niro’s long anti-Trump crusade. Take a look back at some of the actor’s jabs at Trump over the past few years.
Back in 2011, De Niro sat down for an extensive interview with NBC’s Brian Williams at the Tribeca Film Festival just as Donald Trump was first developing his political career with infamous “birther” allegations against then-President Barack Obama. Without mentioning Trump by name, De Niro compared him to a “car salesman” and said, “they’re making statements about people that they don’t even back up.” Trump saw through the euphemism and responded in kind, later telling Fox & Friends, “I like his acting, but in terms of when I watch him doing interviews and various other things, we’re not dealing with Albert Einstein.”
With only a few months left in the U.S. presidential election, De Niro again weighed in on Trump at the 22nd Sarajevo Film Festival. Although he acknowledged that Trump did have dedicated supporters, De Niro maintained that the Republican candidate was unfit for office.
“What he’s been saying is really, totally crazy, ridiculous stuff,” De Niro said at the time. “He’s totally nuts.”
Perhaps the most famous of the De Niro-Trump flare-ups came just a month before the election when an outtake for a celebrity-filled #VoteYourFuture ad featured the actor declaring that he wanted to punch Trump in the face. But De Niro didn’t stop there.
“He’s a punk, he’s a dog, he’s a pig, he’s a con, a bullsh– artist, a mutt who doesn’t know what he’s talking about, doesn’t do his homework, doesn’t care, thinks he’s gaming society, doesn’t pay his taxes,” De Niro said.
When Election Day finally arrived, De Niro was just as shocked at Trump’s surprise victory as many others.
“I feel like I did after 9/11,” De Niro told The Hollywood Reporter. “We’ll just see what happens. There will be many, many, many, many, many people watching.”
In an interview with Jimmy Kimmel, De Niro also had to walk back his punch threat: “I can”t do that now — he’s the president.” De Niro added that he had to “respect that position” even though he was still against Trump.
But despite understanding fisticuffs were off the table, De Niro did not let his Trump animosity lapse after the election. In January, he showed up at an anti-Trump rally in New York City just before the inauguration. After reading a series of parody Trump tweets, De Niro declared that the president is “a bad example of this country, this city.”
During a February appearance on The View, De Niro was asked if he still wants to punch President Trump in the face. He responded that he absolutely did, but also laid out the context of his original statement.
“I said that because he said that about somebody, that he would like to punch them in the face,” the actor told The View hosts. “How dare he say that to the crowd? How dare he say the things he does? Of course I want to punch him in the face … It was only a symbolic thing, anyway. It wasn’t like I was going to go find him and punch him in the face. But he’s got to hear it. He’s got to hear that, you know, that’s how he makes people feel. It’s not good to feel that way. It’s not good to start that stuff up, but at the same time sometimes when people are bullies like that, that’s what you have to do to shut them up. Bully them back.”
De Niro used his acceptance speech for the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s annual Chaplin Award to defend his art form from the Trump administration’s austerity and anti-immigration policies. De Niro did not mention his foe by name, and did not make any more pugilistic threats. Instead, he criticized the administration’s attitude toward art more broadly.
“The administration’s mean-spiritedness towards art and entertainment is an expression of their mean-spirited attitude about people who want that art and entertainment,” De Niro said. “People also want and deserve decent wages, a fair tax system, a safe environment, education for their children, and healthcare for all.”
A few weeks later at Brown, De Niro declared that Trump’s America had become a “tragic, dumbass comedy.”
During an interview with Deadline for his Emmy-nominated portrayal of Bernie Madoff in HBO’s The Wizard of Lies, De Niro tied the discussion back to the president. “If he was smart, he’d be even more dangerous. He’s dangerous as it is,” he said of Trump. “He’s terrible, and a flat-out blatant racist and doubling down on that, and it’s good that he does because he’s going to sink himself.”
De Niro also added that the upcoming Emmy Awards shouldn’t be afraid to criticize Trump. “Even at the Emmys it should be a kind of theme in some way — however, you know, balanced it could be so we’re not making it all about that,” he said. “But at this point, we’re at a crisis in this country with this fool, who never should have gotten into the position that he’s in.”
When asked by CNN’s Poppy Harlow if he thinks people will find the country to be more united or further apart five years from now, De Niro responded, “I don’t know. Maybe some miraculous things will happen where even Trump will do something that’s surprising — I don’t think so, but you never know. I’ll even then say, ‘Okay, I’ll give you that.’ But I just don’t think so.”
He also added of Trump, “All he does is open his mouth and talk and insult people and put them down … that’s inexcusable.”