Robert De Niro, one of America’s greatest living actors, as well as an outspoken political activist, has made no effort to hide his disdain for Donald Trump. As he said of Trump in the past: “He’s so blatantly stupid. He’s a punk. He’s a dog. He’s a pig. He’s a con, a bullshit artist, a mutt who doesn’t know what he’s talking about, doesn’t do his homework, doesn’t care.” His words, while harsh, have the stark ring of truth to them. De Niro hasn’t been afraid to say what many Americans are thinking.
De Niro, who has spent much of his career creating seminal masculine archetypes in cinema, clearly has no patience for Trump’s blustering strongman persona. It’s hollow, as anyone who pays attention can tell. Trump is a coward masquerading as everything but.
Last night, De Niro received the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s 44th Chaplin Award for lifetime achievement. He used the opportunity to blast Trump with panache:
“Everyone knows Chaplin was a great artist, but he made his movies to entertain. It was only later that they became art. I’ve been thinking about this a lot 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 the Humanities, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. For their own devices and political purposes, the administration suggests that the money for these all inclusive program goes to the rich, liberal elite. This is what they now call an alternative fact. I call it what it is — bullshit.”
Trump and his goons have tried to scapegoat funding for the arts. To give themselves the illusion of fiscal responsibility, they have called for drastic cuts, and even for the complete abolishment of the NEA. The annual budget for the NEA is $147.9 million. Meanwhile, Trump’s constant vacations down to Mar-A-Lago have been estimated to cost the taxpayers $3.3 million a pop. Conservative estimates place the annual cost of his gross waste at $120.5 million. On top of that, the cost of protecting Trump and his family in NYC and Florida has already surpassed $60 million. In effect, Trump is jettisoning a valuable national cultural program so that he can play a few more rounds of gulf.
De Niro had more to say about Trump’s idiocracy:
“The administration’s mean-spiritedness towards our art and entertainment is an expression of their mean-spirited attitude about people who want that art and entertainment, people who also want and deserve decent wages, a fair tax system, a safe environment, education for their children and healthcare for all. All of us in film — directors, actors, writers, crews, audiences — 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.”
Republicans love to attack funding for the art, but their criticisms are myopic. American art is one of our great exports. The cultural influence that it allows us to exert over the world is immeasurable. It serves as an emissary to other countries. It is – in a very big way – what defines us as a country.
America can afford to fund the arts. What it cannot afford is to buy into Trump’s lies.
Rob Haffey is a writer, filmmaker, and winner of the ScreenCraft Writing Fellowship. He is a graduate of Drexel University.