“I’m just going to say one thing. Fuck Trump! It’s no longer ‘Down with Trump.’ It’s ‘fuck Trump!’”
—Actor Robert De Niro on live TV at the Tonys last night.
Then he pumped both fists in the air, as a large contingent of the crowd of Broadway glitterati at Radio City Music Hall stood and gave him a standing ovation, endorsing the gutter insult.
I believe such un-American conduct creates an ethical obligation on the part of fair and reasonable American to demonstrate their contempt and opposition, in as strong and decisive a manner possible.
What that means is beyond my ability to suggest right now. I don’t like to write when I am angry, and I am angry. But this must not stand.
Yesterday, commenting on the unethical Tony Awards scheduling of De Niro, who has used other appearances to make vulgar, hateful, ad hominem attacks on the President, I wrote in part,
“If you invite Robert De Niro, you are deliberately announcing that your event is going to be politically divisive and include an attack, probably uncivil, on the President—and while he will be engaged in crucial international negotiations. The President has nothing to do with the Tonys, nor does politics—the main contenders for top musicals are “SpongeBob” and “Mean Girls,” for heaven’s sakes—nor does De Niro, who is just one more movie star being used by Broadway to attract a larger TV audience.”
Naturally, CBS allowed this to go forward, because it was in search of ratings for the perpetually viewer-starved awards show. The network either knew or should have known that this meant that it would be broadcasting some kind of ugly episode. The network was accused of conspiring with Janet Jackson to flash her breast during the supposedly family-friendly Super Bowl half-time show—you know, back in those halcyon days when games didn’t include NFL players symbolically calling the US. racist as a prelude?—and swore that it had no idea anything inappropriate was going to happen. Well, it can’t make that claim now about De Niro. De Niro’s outburst is like the breast-bearing if Jackson had been flashing at every public appearance. CBS knew he was going to insult the President. It wanted him to insult the President.
I do not think CBS expected De Niro to go as far as he did, but that’s like saying you didn’t expect the grizzly bear you brought to the party to eat anyone, just to maul a few people.
CBS managed to mute De Niro sufficiently that amateur only lip-readers got the message, not that any idiot couldn’t guess it. The network signaled its own complicity by refusing to apologize to viewers and the President, stating through a spokesman only that “Mr. De Niro’s comments were unscripted and unexpected. The offensive language was deleted from the broadcast.”
As I said at the outset, I have to calm down and think about this situation—and it is a situation, not a single event—ethically and professionally before I feel can confident that I am not being controlled by anger. However, I can say with confidence that this cannot stand. Hollywood, Broadway, De Niro and “the resistance” must be punished for this behavior, and every patriotic, responsible American citizen should take part in the retribution. It ought to have nothing to do with whether one likes or approves of President Trump. This was a pure expression of mindless hatred directed toward our elected leader, and thus the institutions and the public that made him our leader , on national television, on a broadcast network, and the Broadway community loudly endorsed it. That act expressed hatred and disrespect toward many millions of Americans and our system of government before the world.
It was worse, far worse, than a D-level comic posing with a representation of the President’s severed head. It was worse than Samantha Bee declaring the President’s daughter a cunt on a cable broadcast. This is a tipping point, and it should be understood as one, requiring an organized, appropriate and lasting response.
- As readers here know, I am generally opposed to organized economic boycotts. Regular readers also know that all ethical generalities, rules and principles have exceptions.
This might be one.
- I have yet to read a negative comment on a blog or website about this episode that comes close to expressing the depth of my feelings. In general, the pervasive attitude seems to be, “Well, what do you expect?” and “Keep it up: this is how you get more Trump.!” This is a mistake. I don’t care about “more Trump.” I want a better, unified, ethical, free and democratic nation, and De Niro’s comments, and the disgusting Broadway reaction to it, leads away from that goal, and undermines it.
That is why this must not be shrugged off or minimized.
- Did I neglect to mention yet that Robert De Niro is a boorish, unintelligent, inarticulate asshole who represents his professional every bit as badly as Kevin Spacey, just in a different way?
I’m sorry: He’s an asshole.
De Niro is now on my Alec Baldwin/ Stephen Colbert list. I can’t watch him any more, no matter what role he’s playing, because his ugly character shines through. That’s it for “Godfather II” and “Goodfellas.” Too bad.
- I have many longtime, close friends in the acting community who are generous, loving, smart and talented people. Most of them live in a cocoon, however, and their political positions tend to be peer-generated, shallow, knee-jerk and uninformed. I’m not reading any comments about this on Facebook, because doing so will disappoint and depress me, and because at this moment I can’t guarantee that I won’t give full reign to my usually suppressed talent for abusive invective when some otherwise nice person announces that they agree with De Niro and rack up a thousand likes and loves.
They won’t like me when I’m angry. I don’t like me when I’m angry.
- “Angels in America” playwright Tony Kushner told reporters backstage that be “agreed” with De Niro, saying, “This person should not be anywhere near the seat of power.”
One more time for the ignorant, arrogant and stubborn: Yes, in fact “this person” should, because he was elected under the system our nation-defining Constitution requires. The fact that the “resistance’ and so many progressives and Democrats refuse to acknowledge, or are incapable of acknowledging that basic facts shows that they are the real threat to democracy and the nation.