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Robert De Niro lashes out mid-trial at ex-assistant who is suing him

Robert De Niro exploded during his second day on the witness stand Tuesday in a lawsuit brought by his former assistant.
Robert De Niro lashes out at ex-assistant who is suing him mid-trial
Posted at 5:50 PM, Oct 31, 2023

Actor Robert De Niro shouted "Shame on you!" as he testified Tuesday in a New York courtroom, directing the comments toward his former executive assistant and vice president who is seeking millions of dollars after accusing her former boss of being abusive.

Graham Chase Robinson watched with her lawyers while De Niro's anger built as attorney Andrew Macurdy pelted him with some tabloid-style accusations his client made about De Niro's behavior toward Robinson as she served his needs, large and small, from 2008 until several months into 2019.

Robinson, 41, seeks $12 million in damages for emotional distress and reputational harm that she claims has left her jobless and unable to recover from the trauma of her job. She was being paid $300,000 annually when she quit, frustrated by her interactions with De Niro's girlfriend, Tiffany Chen, and the effect she believed it was having on the actor.

The jury is also considering evidence pertaining to a lawsuit De Niro filed against Robinson in which he claimed that she stole things from him, including 5 million points that could be used for airline flights. De Niro is seeking the return of three years of Robinson's salary.

Macurdy asked De Niro whether it was true that he sometimes urinated as he spoke with Robinson on the telephone.

"That's nonsense," De Niro answered. "You got us all here for this?"

Macurdy told De Niro he called Robinson "b**** to her face."

"I was never abusive, ever," the actor snapped back, though he conceded that he might have used the word in conversations with her.

And the claim that he told Robinson he preferred that she scratch his back rather than using a back scratching device drew another angry rebuke from De Niro, who said it might have happened once or twice but "never was with disrespect or lewdness."

Finally, he angrily looked toward Robinson and shouted, "Shame on you, Chase Robinson!"

Quickly, he blurted an apology in a quieter voice, as he glanced toward Judge Lewis J. Liman.

This is the second day De Niro has been on the witness stand. On Monday, there were two instances when the actor almost raised his voice to a shout during testimony: once when defending Chen's interactions with Robinson, saying, "We make decisions together," and the other when Robinson's lawyer tried to suggest that De Niro bothered his client early in the morning to take him to the hospital in 2017.

"That was one time when I cracked my back falling down the stairs!" De Niro angrily snapped Monday. Even in that instance, he added, he delayed calling Robinson, making it to his bed after the accident at 1 a.m. or 2 a.m., but then later summoning her at 4 a.m. or 5 a.m.

He insisted that he treated Robinson well even after he bought a five-bedroom Manhattan townhouse and let Robinson oversee some of the preparations so he could move there with Chen.

"It is not like I'm asking for her to go out there and scrape floors and mop the floor," he said. "So this is all nonsense!"

Macurdy said Monday the trouble between De Niro and Robinson arose when Chen became jealous that De Niro relied on Robinson for so many tasks and that they communicated so well. He also said his client never had a romantic interest in De Niro.

De Niro's attorney, Richard Schoenstein, said Robinson was treated very well by De Niro "but always thought she deserved more." He described De Niro as "kind, reasonable, generous" and told jurors they would realize that when they hear the testimony of others employed by De Niro's company, Canal Productions, which has countersued Robinson.

Schoenstein described Robinson as "condescending, demeaning, controlling, abusive" and said "she always played the victim."

De Niro, 80, has won two Oscars in a six-decade movie career that has featured memorable roles in films including "The Deer Hunter" and "Raging Bull." Currently, he is in Martin Scorsese's "Killers of the Flower Moon."

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