Before introducing Bruce Springsteen’s performance during Sunday night’s telecast, De Niro stepped up to the microphone with purpose and barely took a breath before saying something that was bleeped entirely for those watching the telecast at home. By the wild reaction of those in the audience at Radio City Music Hall—hoots, hollers, huge applause, and cartoonish gasps and glances of disbelief—De Niro had clearly said something brash and unexpected.
He then pumped his arms up to the roof, like an unapologetic rally leader, and said it again—and was muted again.
Frenzied viewers wondering “WHAT DID ROBERT DE NIRO SAY???” promptly flooded Twitter, and thankfully a handful of reporters in the audience obliged.
“For those at home, De Niro said ‘Fuck Trump’ (twice),” tweeted Ryan McPhee, managing news editor at Playbill, who was in the audience.
The Hollywood Reporter’s awards columnist Scott Feinberg confirmed it: “De Niro: ‘FUCK TRUMP!’ Standing O. Repeats it! TV production people wearing headsets are staring at each other with mouths agape. Amazing live TV moment.”
And People’s news editor Dave Quinn gave more context to De Niro’s full statement. It wasn’t just “Fuck Trump,” that the actor said. It was, “I’m going to say this—FUCK TRUMP. It’s no longer ‘Down with Trump,’ it’s FUCK TRUMP.” As for the reaction, Quinn also tweeted for the hugely positive response at Radio City: “And yes, there were massive standing ovations.”
While De Niro was the only presenter to so blatantly call out Trump, Angels in America scribe Tony Kushner made a plea to vote in the midterms, while his Actor in a Play winner Andrew Garfield called Trump the “anti-thesis” of the value system portrayed in his play backstage.
Earlier in the night, survivors of the Parkland shooting performed the song “Seasons of Love” from Rent.