Robert De Niro Slams "Mean-Spirited" Trump as He Accepts Career Honor

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Robert De Niro

The film legend said the administration is targeting the arts — and potentially depriving America of great artists — "for their own divisive political purposes."

"I don't make movies for rich liberal elites," Robert De Niro said Monday night during his speech accepting the Film Society of Lincoln Center's Chaplin Award at Lincoln Center's David H. Koch Theatre. "I've got my restaurants for that," he cracked, before adding, "I make them for everybody."

De Niro, the award's 44th recipient, was making the point that the "mean-spirited" Trump administration ought to stop targeting arts programs — he mentioned the National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities and Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which would be eliminated under the president's budget proposal — "for their own divisive political purposes."

De Niro, who said he wanted to punch Donald Trump shortly before the election, said on Monday, to massive applause, "I call it what it is: bullshit."

He further noted that the namesake of his award, Charlie Chaplin, was "an immigrant who probably wouldn't pass today's 'extreme vetting,'" adding, "I hope we're not keeping out the next Chaplin."

Earlier in the evening, De Niro was feted by friends and co-stars including Sean Penn, Harvey Keitel, Whoopi Goldberg, Ben Stiller, Meryl Streep, Michael Douglas and Barry Levinson, director of four De Niro films, including the forthcoming The Wizard of Lies.

Martin Scorsese, who has directed De Niro in eight films, presented him with the award as a glittery crowd including Michael Mann, Christopher Walken, John McEnroe, John Turturro, Marisa Tomei, Michael Barker, Avi Lerner, Katie Couric and Harvey Weinstein looked on. 

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