Shortly after beginning his speech at Monday’s Gotham Awards in New York City, Robert De Niro appeared flustered by the teleprompter—or rather, what was missing from it.
The Oscar-winning actor was present to introduce the Historical Icon and Creator Tribute award to Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon, in which he stars alongside Leonardo DiCaprio and Lily Gladstone. De Niro began his prepared remarks, but partway through, he paused to say, “I’m sorry. Okay, there was a mistake in this. I’ll keep going. Just keep scrolling.” De Niro then circled back in confusion. “I just want to say one thing,” he continued. “The beginning of my speech was edited, cut out. I didn’t know about it. And I want to read it.”
De Niro soon launched into the portion of his speech that had apparently been omitted from the teleprompter, featuring pointed criticism of Donald Trump. “History isn’t history anymore. Truth is not truth, and even facts are being replaced by alternative facts and driven by conspiracy theories and ugliness,” he said, reading from his phone. “In Florida, young students are taught that slaves developed skills which could be applied for their personal benefit,” De Niro added, referencing the controversial African American studies curriculum standards approved by Florida’s State Board of Education in July.
“The entertainment industry isn’t immune to this festering disease,” he 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.’”
De Niro concluded, “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. With all of his lies, he can’t hide his soul. He attacks the weak, destroys the gifts of nature, and shows his disrespect for example using Pocahontas as a slur,” referring to Trump’s frequent nickname for Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren.
The actor then noted where his speech resumed on the teleprompter and seemingly accused Killers of the Flower Moon studio Apple and the Gotham Awards of censoring his speech. “I’m gonna say these things, but to Apple and thank them and all that, Gotham, blah, blah, blah, Apple,” De Niro said. “But I don’t feel like thanking them at all for what they did. How dare they do that, actually?”