On the same night Donald Trump made his first official visit to Los Angeles since taking office, Robert De Niro ripped into the president from across town on Tuesday at an event for the Fulfillment Fund, an L.A.-based organization promoting higher education.
In his speech celebrating Cherna and Dr. Gary Gitnick, who co-founded the fund and have worked to improve education for 40 years, De Niro said, “A college education is important, but education without humanity is ignorance. Look at our president. He made it through [the] University of Pennsylvania, so he was exposed to a quality education, but he’s still an idiot.”
When the audience started to react to Trump’s name, the actor responded, “No, don’t boo baby. This is for real. We have to do something about it, sorry. He lacks any sense of humanity or compassion. Of course, he did have to overcome the curse of growing up rich and spoiled and endure the heartbreak of bone spurs, maybe that had an affect.”
“Now I’m not trying to turn this non-political event into a political one, but as long as our country’s leadership is so appalling and so corrupt, I’ll be speaking out at every venue,” De Niro said. “To be silent in the face of such villainy is to be complicit, and it’s especially appropriate tonight because Trump treats education as a con, a way to make a profit at the expense of the suckers.”
He went on, “Anyone here planning to get their higher education at Trump University? But don’t be discouraged young people. Get your degree from a legitimate institution. You don’t have to become president. You can get an honest job or become president and restore integrity and dignity to the job of being president. In stark contrast to the Trump world of dishonesty and greed, tonight we celebrate generosity and devotion to service.”
Most of the room gave De Niro a standing ovation as he finished his speech, while revealing his close connection to Gitnick, who has been his personal physician for 20 years. Bradley Cooper also took the stage with De Niro to thank the doctor for “helping my father in his last years” and speak about the Fulfillment Fund, which provides classroom-based instruction, financial aid counseling, mentoring, scholarships and college field trips for low-income students.
De Niro wasn’t the only one putting political importance on the night, as “The Princess and the Frog” star Anika Noni Rose told Variety, “I think we can clearly see that education might have helped the White House at some point. If someone knew a little bit more about government, we’d be in a better place.”
Stephen Bishop, Charles Fox and Rita Wilson all performed during the event, called “A Legacy for Changing Lives” that was held at Hollywood’s Ray Dolby Ballroom. Raven-Symoné, Sidney Poitier, “Scandal’s” Darby Stanchfield and “Andi Mack’s” Jacob Rush were in attendance, along with hosts Teri Polo and Sherri Saum from “The Fosters.” Rush assisted with the live auction, which raised thousands for the Fulfillment Fund. The night was a double celebration for Gitnick as it was also his birthday, so the event ended with a cake and the ballroom serenading him.