Robert De Niro Goes Off Script at Gotham Awards After His Speech Was Edited Without His Knowledge

He criticized Donald Trump, the entertainment industry’s racism and Florida’s education system

Robert De Niro looking disappointed
Robert De Niro (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images for Tribeca Festival)

Robert De Niro wasn’t happy Monday evening, realizing while presenting a tribute to “Killers of the Flower Moon” that part of his planned speech was missing. In fact, it appeared that the Gotham Awards, Apple, or whoever edited his speech between when he’d last seen it and the show, had removed the political content from his presentation of the Historical Icon and Creator Tribute.

While reading his speech initially, De Niro clearly saw that something was amiss, clearly peering questioningly at the teleprompter before instructing the operator to scroll back. So, following a video package with Scorcese and Geoffrey Standing Bear discussing the history and uncomfortable nature of the film, De Niro told the crowd what had happened.

“I just want to say one thing: The beginning of my speech was edited, cut out — I didn’t know about it. And I want to read it,” De Niro told the crowd, to cheers from those assembled.

“History isn’t history anymore. Truth is not truth,” De Niro read from his phone. “Even facts are being replaced by alternative facts, and driven by conspiracy theories and ugliness. In Florida, young students are taught that slaves developed skills that could be applied for their personal benefit.”

Hollywood didn’t escape his critique.

“The entertainment industry isn’t immune to this festering disease,” De Niro continued. “‘The Duke’ John Wayne famously said of Native Americans, ‘I don’t feel we did wrong in taking this great country away from them. There were great numbers of people who needed new land, and the Indians were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves.’”

He continued, “Lying has become just another tool in the charlatan’s arsenal. The former president lied to us more than 30,000 times during his four years in office, and he’s keeping up the pace in his current campaign of retribution.”

“But with all his lies, he can’t hide his soul,” De Niro said. “He attacks the weak, destroys the gifts of nature and shows disrespect, for example, by using ‘Pocahontas’ as a slur.”

Finally, he caught up with part of the speech that observers had heard before as he said, “Filmmakers, on the other hand, strive — and this is where I came in and I saw that they edited all that.”

The crowd broke into an applause break.

“So, I’m going to say these things, but to Apple and thank them and all that, Gotham, blah blah blah, Apple,” De Niro said, to uncomfortable chuckles from listeners, “but I don’t feel like thanking them at all for what they did. How dare they do that, actually.”

De Niro then went on to introduce those accepting the award for the film.

When he initially read the speech, he began, “Watching the news these days makes one think, from a political point of view anyway, that we actually are living in a post-truth society. Filmmakers, on the other hand, at least aim for the truth.” But as he continued to speak, praising “Marty” Scorsese, he seemed confused before asking for the prompter to be rewound and noting “there was a mistake in this, but I’ll keep going.”

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