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Robert De Niro: Trump is ‘evil’ and ‘a wannabe tough guy with no morals or ethics’

Actor Robert De Niro has launched another broadside at Donald Trump, calling the former president and likely Republican nominee for the 2024 election “evil” and “a wannabe tough guy with no morals or ethics”.

De Niro’s statement was aired on Wednesday at the Stop Trump Summit in New York City, organised by the New Republic magazine. De Niro was unable to attend the event in person due to testing positive for Covid, but his statement was read out by Miles Taylor, a former Trump administration official and author of Blowback: A Warning to Save Democracy from the Next Trump.

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In his statement, De Niro cited his experience of playing vicious, lowlife film characters, saying: “I’ve spent a lot of time studying bad men. I’ve examined their characteristics, their mannerisms, the utter banality of their cruelty. Yet there’s something different about Donald Trump. When I look at him, I don’t see a bad man. Truly. I see an evil one.”

De Niro added: “This guy tries to be [a gangster], but he can’t quite pull it off … he’s a wannabe tough guy with no morals or ethics. No sense of right or wrong. No regard for anyone but himself – not the people he was supposed to lead and protect, not the people he does business with, not the people who follow him, blindly and loyally, not even the people who consider themselves his friends. He has contempt for all of them.”

Saying “we must take the danger of Donald Trump very seriously”, De Niro added his voice to those criticising Trump for his response to the Covid pandemic. “Remember how we were jolted by crisis in early 2020, as a virus swept the world. We lived with Donald Trump’s bombastic behaviour every day on the national stage, and we suffered as we saw our neighbours piling up in body bags. The man who was supposed to protect this country put it in peril, because of his recklessness and impulsiveness. It was like an abusive father ruling the family by fear and violent behaviour.”

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De Niro also suggested it was key to reach out to Trump’s supporters “with respect”. “They’re not stupid, and we must not condemn them for making a stupid choice … Let’s not talk about democracy. Democracy may be our holy grail, but to others it is just a word, a concept, and in their embrace of Trump, they’ve already turned their backs on it. Let’s talk about right and wrong. Let’s talk about humanity. Let’s talk about kindness. Security for our world. Safety for our families. Decency. Let’s welcome them back.”

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De Niro has been a longtime critic of Trump. In a pre-election video in 2016 he said: “He’s so blatantly stupid. He’s a punk. He’s a dog. He’s a pig. A con. A bullshit artist. A mutt who doesn’t know what he’s talking about.” In 2019 he told the Guardian: “I can’t wait to see him in jail.”