De Niro Supports Inauguration Boycott, Warns to be ‘On Guard’ Against Trump

Appearing on Tuesday’s NBC Today to promote a new musical version of his film A Bronx Tale on Broadway, actor Robert De Niro also jumped at the chance to delve into politics, voicing his support for Democrats who plan to boycott Donald Trump’s inauguration on Friday.

Despite being in the middle of an entertainment segment, co-host Matt Lauer steered the conversation to politics: “Let me segue a little bit to something in the news right now. In three days we’ll have a new president in this country. And even in the run-up to that, we're learning that our democracy, while a model for the world, can be messy. And there are some calls to boycott the inaugural. How do we feel about that? Do you think those calls are warranted?”

De Niro didn’t hesitate: “Yeah, I think they are. I think that whatever people do, they should do it fully because there's a lot of crazy stuff happening now. It's just crazy. And maybe it's an act. And we'll see once he's [Trump’s] in. But you know, everybody has to be on guard.”

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Lauer followed up: “But at some point, you have to stand up and support democracy and the office, don't you?” De Niro acknowledged: “Of course, of course.” However, he then questioned the honesty of the President-elect: “...are you saying, ‘Do you believe what you see? Or do you believe what I tell you?’ That old joke....that's the disturbing thing.”

Bronx Tale director Jerry Zaks was more optimistic about the incoming Trump presidency: “And I think it's human nature to protect the possibility of a happy ending. And so, we're going to do everything we can, for as long as we can, to hope that this story has a happy ending, for the country.” Producer Tommy Mottola agreed: “Yeah, and it's a big opportunity for everyone to come together.”

Fellow actor Chazz Palminteri observed: “And what Bronx Tale talks about is how people can come together, where one of the main aspects of the play, is it better to choose love or fear?”

Here is a transcript of the January 17 exchange:

8:36 AM ET

(...)

MATT LAUER: Let me segue a little bit to something in the news right now. In three days we’ll have a new president in this country. And even in the run-up to that, we're learning that our democracy, while a model for the world, can be messy. And there are some calls to boycott the inaugural. How do we feel about that? Do you think those calls are warranted?

ROBERT DE NIRO: Yeah, I think they are. I think that whatever people do, they should do it fully because there's a lot of crazy stuff happening now. It's just crazy. And maybe it's an act. And we'll see once he's in. But you know, everybody has to be on guard.

LAUER: But at some point, you have to stand up and support democracy and the office, don't you?

DE NIRO: Of course, of course. But it has to be – if you are – are you saying, “Do you believe what you see? Or do you believe what I tell you?” That old joke. And we've been seeing a lot what we see, but not, you know – it's not – we all know what I'm talking about, so that's the disturbing thing.

JERRY ZAKS [DIRECTOR, A BRONX TALE]: And I think it's human nature to protect the possibility of a happy ending. And so, we're going to do everything we can, for as long as we can, to hope that this story has a happy ending, for the country.

TOMMY MOTTOLA [PRODUCER, A BRONX TALE]: Yeah, and it's a big opportunity for everyone to come together.

CHAZZ PALMINTERI: I think that's why A Bronx Tale resonates so well right now, too, Matt, is because of the two neighborhoods. There’s the black neighborhood and the Italian neighborhood. And what Bronx Tale talks about is how people can come together, where one of the main aspects of the play, is it better to choose love or fear? Because Sonny is a student of Machiavelli. In jail, he studied Machiavelli. So he tells the boy, what do you choose, love or fear? And at the end, Sonny ends up choosing love. So, I think that's why it's so relevant today.

LAUER: Smart takes on it from all of you, but only he managed to get it back to A Bronx Tale. Can we just mention that? That was pretty good.

(...)

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