The occasion was a charity fundraising dinner, but Robert De Niro was anything but charitable in his remarks about President Donald Trump and what he called “the Trump world of dishonesty and greed.”
The dinner, on March 13 at the Dolby ballroom in Los Angeles’ Hollywood & Highland complex, benefited the Fulfillment Fund, an organization that assists underprivileged children in receiving a higher education.
De Niro began by speaking about the fund’s work and then said “a college education is important, but education without humanity is ignorance. Look at our president. He made it through the University of Pennsylvania, so he was exposed to a quality education, but he’s still an idiot. And he lacks any sense of humanity or compassion.”
“Of course, he did have to overcome the curse of growing up rich and spoiled,” said the actor. “And endure the heartbreak of bone spurs. Maybe that had an effect.” (After his college graduation in 1968 Trump lost his deferment and could have been drafted in a year when roughly 300,000 men entered the army through the Selective Service system with most going to Vietnam. He received a medical deferment for having bone spurs in his heels and was not called up.)
“And it is especially appropriate tonight, Trump treats education as a con — a way to make a profit at the expense of the suckers. Anyone here planning to get their education at Trump University?” De Niro asked rhetorically. “To be silent in the face of such villainy is to be complicit.”
De Niro ended his comments about Trump by saying, “But don’t be discouraged, young people. Get your degree from a legitimate institution; you don’t have to become president — you can get an honest job. Or become president — why not? — and restore integrity and dignity to the job.”
Midway through the speech there were one or two boos, but when De Niro yelled back at the dissenters he received a massive round of applause.
The two-time Oscar winner’s speech came on a day when the president was making his first visit to California since the election. While the actor was speaking, the president was finishing a fundraising dinner at the Beverly Park mansion of Edward Glazer, co-chairman of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and then went on to spend the night at a downtown hotel.