Liberals, Anti-Trump Figures Fume at De Niro for Profane Tony Awards Stunt: 'He Strengthened Trump's Hand'

Robert De Niro speaks during the 72nd Annual Tony Awards / Getty Images
June 11, 2018

Liberal and anti-White House media figures castigated actor Robert De Niro's profane outburst directed toward President Donald Trump at the Tony Awards, with many of them fuming he was only helping Trump's cause.

Before introducing Bruce Springsteen at Sunday night's awards show, De Niro said, "I’m going to say this. F— Trump!" He received a standing ovation as he added, "It’s no longer ‘down with trump,’ it’s f—k Trump!"

MSNBC commentator Steve Schmidt, who recently called Trump a "stone cold racist," lamented on Twitter that "the greatest actor of his generation" chose not to say something important or stand for "decency."

"Instead he strengthened Trump's hand by mirroring his debasement of our culture. Be better," he wrote.

On "Morning Joe," host Joe Scarborough called De Niro's statement a "lowlight" of the evening.

"If people that applauded De Niro’s statement last night don’t understand that they are helping Donald Trump’s re-election every time they do something like that, they don’t understand," Scarborough said.

Co-host Mika Brzezinski agreed such rhetoric will "get him re-elected."

Fellow MSNBC host Stephanie Ruhle wondered if tactics like De Niro hurt his own cause, likening it to TBS host Samantha Bee's slam on Ivanka Trump as a "feckless c—t" last month and Bill Maher's hopes for a recession to hurt the White House.

"I understand the frustration and outrage around the president. I'm sure I shout some of those words in the shower," Ruhle said. "When you see celebrities say 'I hope the economy bottoms out to get rid of Trump,' I think that helps Trump."

The Atlantic culture writer Sophie Gilbert ripped De Niro for a "toothless protest," noting the riotous reaction he got in the theater wasn't surprising given the audience's composition of coastal artists.

"It’s easy to take a platform that offers easy (if bleeped-out) access to millions of people and use profanity to capture a mood, to express an emotion," she wrote. "But the outrage that will doubtless ensue is a distraction from what really matters, and what’s much harder to realize: the work of trying to change a situation, not just rage against it."

"The Circus" creator Mark McKinnon echoed Scarborough and Brzezinski, tweeting De Niro's outburst played into Trump's hands.

"That’s all you got? Do you have any clue as to how this plays right into Trump’s playbook? Keep it up and you’ll help ensure four more years," he tweeted.

The response wasn't universally negative on the left. AV Club cheered the "glorious" moment, and Daily Kos said De Niro's "words reflect the anger, disgust and apprehension so many Americans feel right now."

Actors like Mark Hamill and Billy Eichner praised the Hollywood icon, or were at least amused by him.