On Monday night, the actor was awarded the annual Chaplin Award at the Lincoln Center’s fundraiser that honors the creative, professional world of cinema. Beginning with Charlie Chaplin in 1971, past honorees have included Alfred Hitchcock, Audrey Hepburn, Martin Scorsese and Meryl Streep.
According to Entertainment Weekly, the 73-year-old Oscar winner took the stage after friends like Sean Penn, Whoopi Goldberg, Streep and Ben Stiller gave touching nods to the Tribeca Film Festival co-founder.
In his speech, De Niro said that like Charlie Chaplin, “we make movies to entertain audiences,” but the film industry has been jeopardized lately “because of our government’s hostility towards art.”
“The budget proposal, among its other draconian cuts to life-saving and life-enhancing programs, eliminates the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for Humanities, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting,” he said. “For their own divisive political purposes, the administration suggests that the money for these all-inclusive programs goes to rich, liberal elites. This is what they now call an alternative fact. I call it what it is: Bulls–.”
In his speech, he also gave a shoutout to the “overrated performances of Meryl Streep,” a clear reference to Trump’s comments in January after Streep’s now famous Golden Globe acceptance speech.
“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 added. “People also want and deserve decent wages, a fair tax system, a safe environment, education for their children and healthcare for all. I don’t make movies for rich, liberal elites. I’ve got my restaurants for that.”
At the end of his speech, the “Taxi Driver” star added that “all of us in films owe a debt to Charlie Chaplin, an immigrant who probably wouldn’t pass today’s extreme vetting. I hope we’re not keeping out the next Chaplin.”
De Niro has always been a critic of Trump. For example, last October, the actor filmed a political testimony for a non-partisan group in which he called the president “blatantly stupid,” a “punk,” “dog,” “pig” and “a mutt who doesn’t know what he’s talking about.” In February, De Niro said he’d “like to punch him in the face.”