The second day of Robert De Niro‘s court testimony was just as fiery as the first, with the actor vehemently denying he was ever an abusive boss to the ex-employee suing him as part of an ongoing discrimination lawsuit.
De Niro, 80, took the stand again in New York on Tuesday. The Oscar-winning actor on several occasions grew visibly upset and raised his voice while testifying against his former assistant Graham Chase Robinson, according to numerous reports.
“Every little thing she’s trying to get me on is nonsense! Shame on you, Chase Robinson,” De Niro shouted.
He subsequently apologized for the outburst.
Robinson was employed by De Niro from 2008 to 2019.
She sued De Niro and his company, Canal Productions, in July 2021. She is seeking US$12 million (over C$16.5 million) in damages for severe emotional distress and reputational harm. Robinson — who reportedly earned a salary of US$300,000 (about C$416,500) before quitting her role as Canal’s vice-president of production and finance — has also claimed De Niro’s girlfriend, Tiffany Chen, pushed her out of the employment opportunity.
De Niro and Canal Productions have denied Robinson’s allegations and also filed a lawsuit against her when she quit her job in 2019, before she had filed her own. De Niro and Canal claimed Robinson was a poor employee who stole five million Delta SkyMiles from company cards and watched “astounding hours of TV shows” while at her job. Evidence from De Niro’s lawsuit will be considered by the jury in the current trial.
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Name-calling and back-scratching allegations
While on the stand Tuesday, De Niro continued to defend against a long list of allegations from Robinson, whose lawyers provided several examples of alleged workplace mistreatment at the hands of De Niro.
When De Niro was asked by Robinson’s lawyer Andrew Macurdy if he had ever called her names while Robinson was employed, De Niro confessed he had.
“Yeah, fine, I berated her,” De Niro said, citing an instance where Robinson allegedly did not wake him up in time for a meeting.
“I wasn’t abusive. I was annoyed.”
De Niro said that at the time he may have called Robinson “petulant,” “snippy” and a “f—ing spoiled brat.” Still, De Niro said he has never yelled at Robinson, but rather “raised his voice” because yelling is “one thing I don’t do.”
As his testimony continued, Robinson’s lawyers told the jury that De Niro preferred when she would scratch his back rather than using a scratching device. De Niro denied this claim but said he may have once or twice asked Robinson to scratch his back, though it “never was with disrespect or lewdness.”
While still on the stand, De Niro was also asked if he had ever urinated while on the phone with Robinson. De Niro sardonically replied, “Give me a break with this nonsense. You got us all here for this?”
Gender discrimination claims
Robinson alleged in her lawsuit that she was a victim of gender discrimination and made to perform “stereotypically female job duties” like laundry, despite holding an executive title at Canal.
On Monday, De Niro testified that Robinson, who was his assistant before being handed the VP title, was “pushy” about receiving the executive position. He said her assistant responsibilities had not changed, just the job title.
The following day, Robinson’s lawyers again pressed about the allegations of sexism and asked why Robinson was paid less than De Niro’s other employee, Dan Harvey. De Niro said Harvey has been his personal trainer for 40 years.
“What does Dan Harvey have to do with her?” De Niro asked. “God knows why she felt like she should make the same.”
When asked specifically if gender was the reason for the pay disparity between Robinson and Harvey, De Niro replied, “Give me a break with that nonsense.”
The trial is expected to last for two weeks, until Nov. 10.
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